Hold on Hekia. Cyber schools aren’t the answer

Our daughter turned eight this week. She is a bright, happy and curious little girl with lots of friends. She’s in the bilingual unit at Westmere Primary. Cool principal and gifted teachers. Awesome, engaged whānau.

After school, she logs on to Study Ladder. She nails the homework fairly quickly, but it doesn’t take long for me to hear the annoying accent of the ever-perky DanTDM.

She can’t help herself. She’d play Minecraft online all day if we let her. Hey, she’s a kid, and kids need supervision. So do teenagers.

This week our Minister of Education dropped a hell of a clanger. Hekia Parata announced that students would soon have the option of signing up to an “accredited online learning provider” instead of turning up to school. According to the minister, it’s time for New Zealand kids to “move into the digital age.”

Newsflash. They already are. It’s everywhere. Unavoidable. You’re soaking in it.

Cyber-schools. Stay-at-home-online-learning. COOL — community of online learning — is the hip new acronym.

I can see the appeal. Avoiding the Auckland motorway would be cool. As a person who works from home (and most parents don’t), I can imagine me and my child bonding after a late breakfast, and then shuffling off to our respective computers, still in our PJs. We could have lunch together and go for little walks down the beach, in between her virtual math and cyber science.

Yeah, right.

Much as I love my daughter, I’ve got stuff to do. And while there are definitely parents more useless than me, I wouldn’t be much chop even as a supervisor. When a lot of grown-ups aren’t that hot at “self-pacing,” you can’t expect teenagers to be.

My mum is a digi-kuia. But even she reckons we need to get kids off devices, that school isn’t just about the academics. She’s got a point. Continue reading

  • Moana Maniapoto — Ngati Tuwharetoa / Tuhourangi / Ngati Pikiao | MNZM — is an Auckland-based singer-songwriter and documentary maker


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