Pipi Learning
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In praise of women learners

March 2nd, 2023 - Teaching - Elizabeth Asbury

In Aotearoa New Zealand, a modern, progressive society, access to education and training is all about equity. Gender equality in course availability, and equity of access. But is that actually the case? Is that the lived experience for women looking to upskill or return to education and training?

My eldest son started at Kindy when he was three years old. Until that time, I was a stay-at-home mum quietly sinking in debt and poor mental health. Everyone I knew was of the opinion that Kindy was a watershed moment in a parent’s life, the time when you were finally free!  The time when you could GO BACK TO WORK!! 

Um, I’m sorry? Go back to where? Do what now? Before I had my children I worked in a large inner-city hospital, which was now over 80km away. What was I supposed to do with my younger son while I was busy commuting 160km per day, let alone working – keep him in a box under my desk? I’m sure my boss would completely understand that as I only had five child-free hours a day, and would spend two hours commuting, I would be cramming my previous full-time job in three sleep-deprived hours a day.

Yeah, nah. 

So, I did what any woman does who needs to work while juggling a family, I search for the 9am-to-2.30pm-during-term-time miracle job that EVERYONE said was out there! 

Yeah, nah.

Any jobs that fitted round the family were mostly evening and shift work, but I was woefully under qualified for any of them. So, I thought I’d get some training! Upskill! Get new quals! You go girl!

Yeah, nah.

The nearest college was 40 minutes away and classes started at 8.30am – how can you do Kindy drop off and be in class at the same time? Occasionally I made it, and wow, you could spot the parents from a mile off. The stressed, feral look in their eyes, praying to any available God that the school wouldn’t ring, the tutor would actually turn up and the child-free chatters down the front would just SHUT THE HELL UP so we could get on with it. I got speeding tickets. I cried in front of traffic cops. It was not pretty.

So, we get it. We absolutely get it. Pipi has an all-women workforce, so we’ve all been there. We’ve all been flabbergasted by the stupidity of the (mostly male) ‘traditional educators’ who argue that ‘classroom learning is best’. Best for who exactly?? Let’s face it, we all know that women from all backgrounds are the lynchpin of their families – if they’re not raising children or wrangling teenagers, they’re caring for aging parents. Each one of them juggles a thousand roles each and every day, and if we want to help women get jobs and succeed, we have to provide education and training on THEIR TERMS.

Thanks to the smartphone, eLearning gives ALL women the opportunity to upskill. Travelling on a bus, at the laundrette, feeding the baby, while ‘watching’ Fireman Sam for the 50 billionth time, standing on the side-lines at swimming/rugby/hockey/basketball, parked outside school in the lashing rain, or waiting to collect angry teenagers from the police station. A woman can learn ANYWHERE. She can upskill at ANY TIME. She can create a better future for herself and her whānau WITHOUT LIMITS.

Women are AWESOME, and eLearning can finally provide us with the opportunities we hoped were ours all along.

About the Author:

Elizabeth Asbury (PhD, MSc, BSc Hons)

Elizabeth has been working in online learning for so long that the vacant stares and looks of pity from ‘traditional’ educators have become a distant memory. Thanks to the early adopters and revolutionary thinkers who understood that online learning was about equity and accessibility, no longer is mentioning eLearning akin to screaming into the void. Her Ph.D in Psychology, post-doc research, and years of working in tertiary and vocational education certainly helped prepare Elizabeth for the fight to bring the amazing opportunities online learning can offer to the widest possible audience.

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