Sunday, February 12, 2006

Wheres the rangatiratanga eh?

About 2 months ago the Principal of Edgewater College was telling me about a proposed website where parents could check on their children’s school grades and attendance records. I was appalled and proceeded to explain how this removed the rights of the students and did not take a youth development approach to improving information for students. About 20 minutes ago TV One News announced the launch of this kind of website at Avondale college.

The way the website works is that parents are given a unique login and they can view the grades and attendance record (per period) of their child(ren). Avondale College’s Principal says that this is about adding value for parents and to encourage parent interest in their child's education.

Although this may mean that parents have more information I would argue that it's not necessarily the right information and also that all student rights are removed by putting this information online, and that parent interest in their child’s education should be encouraged but not through such a perverse method as ‘spying’ on their child.

In an ideal world children would discuss their progress at school with parents including days off and grades. This is not always the case and parents are often moved to spy on their children or find information that their children won't give them in other ways.

This really defeats the purpose, though, because in the end the education of the child is paramount and the child’s ‘buy in’ to their education is vital.

A youth development approach to information would empower the students to come up with a way to communicate with their parents about grades etc.

The information that parents can access through the Avondale site is information they can access from teachers already, but there has always been the understanding that students will tell their parents.

This website is removing them from the picture and encourages parents to take any self-determination that the children had over their education away.

In person I can articulate this argument better but I am opposed to the website for these reasons:

1. Grades and days off are not the only measures of educational success – this information may give parents an skewed idea of where their child is at.

2. Parents may see this as an alternative to talking to their child or their child’s teacher about their progress.

3. Parents may see this as an alternative to attending parents teacher interviews

4. This removed the child’s right to an privacy around this information.

5. This system takes any responsibility and rights away from the student.

6. This system could become more Big Brother-like, as it is developed.

I am very upset that this is in place and the students are viewed without rights in this situation. It is difficult for students to organise and articulate against this system. This system is avoiding the problem that leads to parents needing to get this information from somewhere other than the child. Parent and child communication in an open, honest and mature way can be achieved; this web based system is taking the easy way out to scare and alienate the students from self-determination over their education.