New lessons for agents and care providers

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Issue 342 March 15, 2016

The government has done well in introducing a new Code of Practice for pastoral care of international students in New Zealand.

The Code sets out a series of measures defining at the outset the meaning and content of pastoral care, the responsibilities of pastoral caregivers and the dispute resolution process. These measures should not only provide unambiguous ‘lessons’ for caregivers but also enable international students to understand their rights and do not fall silent victims and then suffer mental health issues.

A Paper prepared by the Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Ministry in 2011 said that the international student population will continue to grow rapidly over at least the next decade. Projections made by the British Council, Universities UK, and IDP Australia forecast 6% annual growth to 2020 in international enrolments in the USA, UK, Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

“Competition for international students is strengthening. More education institutions in the other main English speaking destinations are pursuing the revenue and academic benefits of this activity. Several other countries are entering this market – including the Netherlands, Singapore and Malaysia,” the Paper said.

English-language training 

An important component of international education is demand for English language training as part of travel.  There is also high demand for language training in order to fulfil entry requirements to higher education, for immigration purposes, and increasingly for specific vocational training.

The Paper mentioned that New Zealand is an attractive destination for many school-aged international students, particularly from China, South Korea, Japan, Thailand and Germany. Our high-quality English language curriculum is a major draw, together with a reputation for providing a safe and enjoyable lifestyle.

A comparison with the United Kingdom and Australia (both with nearly 25,000 international fee-paying school students) shows that our schools are strong competitors in this area of international education.

Key partners 

Tertiary Education Minister Steven Joyce is of the view that New Zealand’s reputation for education quality and flexibility of delivery is leading to increased interest from our major partner countries for us to play a role in fulfilling their education development strategies.

“Our education links with India and China are an essential part of maintaining and growing our wider high quality bilateral relationships, and of the ‘New Zealand Inc’ strategies with both countries. We are building similar high-trust relationships in education with other key partners in Asia, the Pacific, the Middle East, Europe and Latin America,” he said.

We believe that the new Code of Practice will also address the rising problem of dubious education agents luring students from India on false promises, creating potentially dangerous situations.

Education providers in New Zealand have largely stayed away from granting fake certificates and diplomas (although there have been allegations that some Chinese-owned and operated institutions are involved) but they could also easily fall victims to scams.

International students from India are becoming a major source of revenue for Australia and New Zealand, which have traditionally been ‘countries of fourth choice’ after the US, UK and Canada.

Tighter control needed

Britain has been a magnet for foreign students, thanks in part to the reflected glory of Oxford and Cambridge and to the fact that English is the global language of business.

But its attraction may be weakening. Too often universities offer their paying guests a shoddy service. A common gripe is that they provide little customised support in return for their whopping fees; language problems and social isolation are rife. Locals, too, can resent foreign students, particularly if large groups come from a single place and do not mix, or if their poor English holds up a whole class, or if there is any hint that they are admitted preferentially for financial reasons.

Other countries are trying harder these days to grab a slice of the lucrative foreign market. American institutions are recruiting more foreign students, and an increasing number of universities around the world. For example, institutions in Germany, Japan and China are offering courses taught in English.

The Governments on either side of the Tasman are keen to boost their export education sector, which bring in billions of dollars in fees, in addition to sale of goods and services. The respective Governments cap neither their numbers nor their fees.

But the need to regulate the industry is greater today than ever before.

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