Our tepid approach to export education

Politicians, irrespective of their political leaning, will wax eloquent over the importance of promoting New Zealand as an education destination for international students and that every effort must be exercised to optimise numbers. Ministers of the Crown would tell you that export education is a $2.3 billion (annually) industry and that it is one of the few sectors unaffected by recession.

There is little evidence to show that such rhetoric have been usefully translated into a tangible plan of action. Save for the efforts of Private Training Establishments (PTEs) and a few agents acting on behalf of universities and tertiary institutions, there is no action from Crown entities- at least not as far as India is concerned.

For a start, Education New Zealand appears to have discontinued organising PACE (Promotional Activity Calendar for Education) Fairs in India. These fairs, held in yesteryears, enlisted the enthusiastic participation of universities, PTEs and other private education providers.

In his regular column under Educationlink, New Zealand Career College Chief Executive Feroz Ali said Education New Zealand had ‘downgraded’ India to ‘Tier Two’ status, saying that it was not a priority market that required support from PACE Fairs.

“At the last Education New Zealand fair held in India, some PTEs were the key culprits in Waka Jumping and soliciting students through unethical practices,” he said (Indian Newslink, June 1, 2011).

As Mr Ali rightly argued, the absence of official participation opened the market for all sorts of players, mostly the seedy ones.

India is perhaps the most important market for export education, with hundreds of thousands of students going overseas for higher education every year. With a burgeoning middle class affording overseas education, countries of the West would do well to market their educational institutions through cooperative ventures blessed by official sponsorship. Which is why Australia, Canada, UK and US spend millions of dollars in ‘corporate promotion.’ The Federal Governments in these countries are serious about expanding their export education sector.

It is a pity that New Zealand has withdrawn its official insignia from the Indian export education market. Hopefully someone will point out the lacuna to Prime Minister John Key during his forthcoming official visit to India, leading to immediate correction action.

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