UPDATED 6.05pm School-age students will be able to enrol in an accredited online learning provider instead of attending school, under new government legislation.
LISTEN ABOVE: Education minister Hekia Parata spoke with Larry Williams
The radical change will see any registered school, tertiary provider such as a polytechnic or an approved body corporate be able to apply to be a "community of online learning" (COOL).
Any student of compulsory schooling age will be able to enrol in a COOL - and that provider will determine whether students will need to physically attend for all or some of the school day.
The Ministry of Education says this requirement may depend on the type of COOL.
Regulations will set out the way in which attendance in an online learning environment will be measured.
The change is part of legislation that has been introduced by Education Minister Hekia Parata.
She said it was the biggest update to education in New Zealand in nearly 30 years.
"COOLs will be open to as wide a range of potential providers as possible to gain the greatest benefits for young people," Parata said.
"This innovative way of delivering education offers a digital option to engage students, grow their digital fluency, and connect them even more to 21st century opportunities.
"There will be a rigorous accreditation process alongside ongoing monitoring to ensure quality education is being provided."
Ms Parata said she can't say for sure what it would look like until companies submit their proposals, but they have a rough idea from the correspondence school model.
"Which does some part of it's teaching and learning completely online then it does some part partnering with schools and it does some parts of it with blended learning where they provide for teachers visiting kids."
Labour MP Chris Hipkins said they're still trying to get to the bottom of it and what it will mean in practice.
He said if it's an extension of charter schools to an online learning environment then the evidence for it overseas is very, very mixed.
But Mr Hipkins said if, on the other hand, it's about moving the correspondence school into the digital age, then that's long overdue.
NZEI President Louise Green agrees saying online schooling in the United States has been a disaster.
She said there's been no consultation on this proposal, and there's no evidence this will make a positive difference for kids.
"There are reports that show children drop out of online learning as the years go by. Their results in maths and English for example, get increasingly worse through the years."
Ms Green said parents know that having children online for long periods of time is not a good idea.
"Kids need to be in schools where they're in a community, learning from each other, growing in independence, developing all of the good skills that they need to be part of society."
PPTA President Angela Roberts said this is blatant privatisation.
She said learning online is already here and schools already have many ways of blending face-to-face with online learning.
Ms Roberts said what this does is open up a market for any provider to get public funding to offer online education, in competition with public schools.
The only benefit will be for business, not for the children, she says.
Meanwhile, more flexibility's coming for parents in the way they first enrol their children in school.
Currently parents are required to enrol their children in school on their fifth birthday - a measure that can see five-year olds starting learning part way through a term or school year.
Under new measures, proposed in legislation amending the Education Act, new students will be able to start school at the beginning of the term that falls closest to their fifth birthday.
The change is designed to improve the progress of children during, what officials call, the important first year of schooling.