In a first of its kind protest, 80 people marched up to the electorate office of Dr Parmjeet Parmar, National Member of Parliament in Mount Roskill, Auckland on September 3, 2016.
They were protesting against the deportation of 41 Indian students, who were alleged to have filed fake documents.
The protestors said that the students should be allowed to stay in New Zealand and not be punished for the deceitful acts of their education agents.
The New Zealand government’s argument was that these students were liable since they had documents while applying for work visas at the office of Immigration New Zealand (INZ) in India.
In the midst of all these claims and counter claims, the fact remains unchanged that 41 students were heading back to India.
International Education is the fifth biggest export earner for New Zealand.
The industry is worth $ 3.5 billion annually. In 2015, about 125,000 international students were enrolled in our schools, universities, institutes of technology and private providers.
The number of student arrivals from India rose significantly in 2013 after the government relaxed English language requirements. Private Training Establishments (PTEs) can now admit students into their programmes without having to establish their proficiency in English language through independent tests such as IELTS or TOEFL.
They could use their own tests and judgement instead. More than 10,000 students from India came to New Zealand last year. This offset the slowdown in International students coming from China.
The fall in student numbers from China was reportedly due to deportation of 200 Chinese students in 2012 on similar grounds as that of students from India.
Education is a lucrative industry but are standards and quality being compromised to boost revenue? Are short term gains so attractive that standards can be overlooked?
Last year, INZ rejected nearly half of 20,000 visa applications from India.
Should not such high numbers of declined requests prompt an even stricter scrutiny of applications?
Student applicants are required to show that they have sufficient funds in their bank accounts at the time of application. This is sound practice.
But the reality is that documents can be easily fudged.
INZ must employ better standards of scrutiny and seek the expertise of the Indian government. Officials in New Zealand say that they cannot control education agents in a foreign country. But they should not allow blacklisted education agents to deal with educational institutions in New Zealand.
There is no denying that the reputation of international education in New Zealand is falling. Many are using the ‘student path’ to enter the country.
The New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA) has a checklist of criteria that educational institutions must comply with in their business.
Even a layman can observe that our system of approving educational institutions must be reviewed. Many of these operate as shops lacking basic infrastructure and faculty.
New Zealand is being ‘sold’ as a destination to students to gain permanent residency. Unscrupulous agents lure students with false promises and improper processing of applications by INZ leads to situations such as those faced now.
The ramifications of a large student population are being felt in other areas also.
Auckland is dealing with a booming population with inadequate infrastructure to sustain the demand arising in areas like housing and transport.
Exploitation of migrant workers is also rampant.
The government and NZQA must have in place robust and exhaustive measures to ensure that genuine students come to New Zealand.
Procedures and policies cannot be altered to suit individual needs.
Additional Reading: Our Editorial, ‘Lesson to be learnt at least now’ under Viewlink.
Protest against deportation in Mt Roskill, Auckland on September 3.
(Picture Courtesy: Radio New Zealand)