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Factors predisposing towards virtual schools in a country

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

This is a set of preliminary observations on what factors prevalent in a country might predispose that country towards having virtual schools – schools which do their teaching online to students at home.


Our focus here is virtual schools – a later article will look at virtual colleges. An operational definition of ‘school’ might be ‘an educational institution where there is consensus in society that the students need to be supervised as well as taught’ – in many societies this would apply to students up to the age of 16. We shall focus in particular on the 13-16 age group – ‘young teenagers’.


I suggest that there are ten key factors to be checked against the literature

  1. Pervasive broadband in the country
  2. A long tradition in the country of virtual education at other educational levels, especially at colleges (it is not so relevant what universities do)
  3. A long tradition of homeschooling ( thus which does not interpret ‘school’ to be place-bound (see Article 28 on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child -
  4. A country which is relaxed about leaving young teenagers to look after themselves, for periods of some hours (but not overnight)
  5. A country where female participation in the workforce is low, particularly for females with children (see
  6. A country where parents do not (both) work long hours or have long travel times to work
  7. A country which has rural populations but a strong desire to give as good an education to these as to children in cities
  8. A country which aims to give as good an education to those of its population in specialist groups as to the generality – groups such as children of citizens living outside the country, disabled children, hospital-bound children, children of religious and ethnic minorities
  9. A country which does not have an extended family network for families
  10. A country with a standardised school curriculum (so that economies of scale can be leveraged)


For some background see


Notice that few of these factors are under government control in any short-term way except for 3 and possibly 10 and 8. There are other factors. One often cited is ‘a desire to cut (or slow the rise in) the costs of education’ but I suggest that this is not so relevant in OECD and similar countries.


Readers might like to draw up a little table for their own countries and let us know.

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