Not wanting to get too far off topic by discussing OW courses rather than Specialty courses!!
I agree in principle with 100% of your point of view, Azza. The problem comes in practical implementation. Every course is different, ever student diver is different and there are always different constraints.
In an ideal world, every instructor would spend more time in the pool and so on, and every student would leave OW confident with the ability to demonstrate all skills whilst neutral etc. However, for most of my courses I am happy if a student is comfortable with their mask off, can share air effectively, can recover a reg whilst neutral and can maintain a given depth.
We should start another thread if we want to carry this on and comment on the dive industry and it's shortcomings.... but my take on it is that training is hugely undervalued, and the time it would take to acheive the "perfect" OW graduate is not practical for what the NZ market is wanting to pay. It doesn't help when you get dive centres that are charging $299 for an OW course - who then is going to pay $1000? The more training gets devalued, the harder it's going to be to produce good, safe divers.
GUE are intending to release their OW programme in November this year, I beleive. It's a 15 dive OW course and probably will set the standard for most comprehensive OW course around.... but how many people are going to pay $2000 for it? There should be a GUE instructor training in Australasia by the end of the year if you wanted to become a GUE instructor, Azza!!
I'm not going to split this topic yet - any further comments on OW training, someone please start a new thread.