Many schools are likely to be closed for some time following the Christchurch earthquake on 22 February 2011. At the present time 18 schools have been identified as having serious problems, representing more than 10,000 students. Dozens of other schools are also affected, but to a lesser extent.
Finding a solution is complicated because of a range of issues, including:
- There are a number of schools that will not be able to open in the foreseeable future, meaning those students will require alternative accommodation.
- A large number of students have already fled Christchurch with their families, some are enrolling in schools in other parts of New Zealand, and others are simply not attending school at this stage.
- Some parents are experiencing anxiety about their children attending school in the short term for fear of being separated in the event of another quake. Others are desperately keen for their children to be able to attend school because of the childcare role it plays, so they can return to work.
- Teachers also are impacted, with many having left Christchurch in the wake of the quake, and are therefore not likely to be able or want to return to work in the immediate future.
- Access to electricity and internet is a problem in some areas, so online programmes may be a part of the answer, but not entirely.
Thus, the solution will need to be creative, flexible and offer a sustainable way forward. This will take some serious thinking and coordination. A blended approach must be considered.
We have some excellent pockets of innovation in New Zealand in terms of what is being done within the school sector with distance education and online learning. CORE Education is working with others in the Greater Christchurch Schools Network (GCSN) to explore a blended solution that may bring together the strengths of…
- Te Kura, with its track record of providing correspondence materials
- The Virtual Learning Network (VLN), with their extensive experience in providing online education via combinations of synchronous and asynchronous tools
- National and international online projects
- International online education programmes from Australia and Canada
- Online resources and curriculum in WikiEducator
- Ministry of Education funded online support programmes such as wickEd and StudyIT
- Local teachers with specialist knowledge and expertise
- The national network of teachers who have skills and knowledge in this area, who may be able to contribute in a range of ways.
The Ministry of Education is, understandably, taking a considered approach, as they ascertain the exact nature of the problem, numbers involved etc. Whatever they decide to do, we want to be prepared so that there are a range of options available to those affected, and that these options may be presented in such a way that they might provide opportunities for a continued ‘blended service approach’ beyond when the immediate concerns of solving the issue of access to learning for the displaced students (and staff) have been addressed.
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