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International expert warns NZ to steer clear of 'corporate online schools'

30 Nov 2016

An international education expert has come out swinging about the idea of letting private entities own and run its own online schools, saying that students would do better to learn in a public school.

Professor Gary Miron, an expert in virtual and charter schools, says corporate online schools are a poor idea and would be detrimental to New Zealand.

“Online learning is an important education tool for students. I’m not against online schools at all, but years of research and evaluation show that students achieve better results when that learning takes place in a public school setting,” Miron says.

He says that the effects of full-time virtual schools are clearly demonstrated in the United States.

“Full-time virtual schools are the fastest growing form of school choice in the USA. Research on online schools has revealed that they have serious problems, such as extremely high student attrition and very poor results.”

His research found that poor performance was a main effect of virtual schools, and recommended that policymakers slow or halt the growth in number of virtual schools. His research also suggested that virtual schools should have a maximum ratio of students to teachers to ensure more resources are available for instruction.

“When private entities and corporations are invited into the education sector they do what they are built to do; make profits for themselves. Privately owned online schools are akin to invasive species. They are introduced into a new setting where they thrive because they have no predators and no checks and balances," He says.

“New Zealand already has high quality and innovative online education within the state school system; growing and developing those resources may be the best way forward.”

Gary Miron is a professor in Evaluation, Measurement and Research at Western Michigan University, and also a fellow at the US National Education Policy Center. His research focused on international and comparative education, school choice and online schools.

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