First impressions of New Zealand
I've been in New Zealand only 5 days and have not yet visited any institutions, but I have had the benefit of being hosted by Professor Niki Davis at the College of Education, University of Canterbury. In addition to her US and UK experience she is now working with several of the "networked schools" consortia in New Zealand. The conclusions that follow are, I stress, my own.
- As often the case, but perhaps surprising in an English-speaking country, when one gets to the country, more is going on than was apparent from a European perspective.
- Part of this is due to vocabulary issues.
- As an example, the absence of any schools provision for hospital-bound children is apparent not real. I read about them first in a forthcoming paper of Niki's, but confusingly they are called "health schools". See for example http://www.nhs.school.nz/ - one of three such. The integration of the provision is more typical, one might have thought, of a small European country.
- But in fact there are some similarities between New Zealand and Finland in terms of virtual school provision. A considerable amount of supplementary virtual schooling - in-school distance learning (from another school) - is provided from the various networked school consortia, though mostly at a "cottage industry" level.
- On the other hand, there is a monolithic provider, The Correspondence School (Te Kura) - http://www.virtualcampuses.eu/index.php/The_Correspondence_School - but the dialectic between this and the small providers is not yet clear to me.
- Despite this provision, it does look as though there should be a greater amount of virtual schooling, especially given New Zealand's long and strong track record in tertiary-level distance education.
- One reason for the difference may be that, in contrast with their approach to the tertiary sector, the government currently seems to have a "hands-off" approach to schools, preferring to encourage (with small amounts of funding) e-learning activity rather than to coerce or adjust funding parameters.
- Contrast this with the "No Child Left Behind" pressures in the US leading to equalisation of provision of courses across schools, and the lesser, subtler pressures in this direction in England.
All this is very tentative. I need to find out a lot more about content provision, the nature of the school leaving examinations (centralised exams or not), where the situation is with repositories, and of course where the schools are with OER. There is nothing in schools like the HE OER activity largely led from New Zealand which has led to the OER university - http://wikieducator.org/OER_university/Home - with several New Zealand partners.
Paul Bacsich, at the University of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand