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Mayoral International Student Welcome at Te PapaThese days, edu­ca­tion and busi­ness are inex­tric­ably tied up togeth­er, mean­ing both gains and com­prom­ises are made, with pros and cons hotly debated.

One thing that seems pos­it­ive from most angles though, is the busi­ness of inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion. Boost­ing the indi­vidu­al stu­dent, the school, the loc­al com­munity, the wider region and the coun­try as a whole, the pro­grammes oper­at­ing in New Zea­l­and today undoubtedly open cul­tur­al door­ways and add value to the loc­al and nation­al economy.

In Wel­ling­ton alone, inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion con­trib­uted approx­im­ately $193 mil­lion to the eco­nomy last year, with more than 5,500 inter­na­tion­al stu­dents study­ing, and around 100 dif­fer­ent coun­tries represented.

A study com­mis­sioned by Edu­ca­tion New Zea­l­and into the eco­nom­ic value of inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion to New Zea­l­and dur­ing 2012 found that the total eco­nom­ic ‘value-add’ from enrol­ments of inter­na­tion­al fee-pay­ing stu­dents in our schools was around $361 mil­lion, $310 mil­lion for sec­ond­ary schools and $51 mil­lion for primary schools. This was a not insig­ni­fic­ant 14 per­cent of the $2.6 bil­lion total value for that year. In the first half of 2014, the num­ber of inter­na­tion­al stu­dents in Wel­ling­ton increased by a per­cent, align­ing with an upward swing across the coun­try as a whole.

Grow Wel­ling­ton is the eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment agency work­ing to accel­er­ate growth in the region, with the mis­sion of mak­ing us more inter­na­tion­ally com­pet­it­ive. Focus­ing on exports, they are heav­ily involved with inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion pro­gramme pro­mo­tion, term­ing it “export education”.

Col­lab­or­at­ing with Edu­ca­tion Wel­ling­ton Inter­na­tion­al (EWI), a net­work of edu­ca­tion pro­viders in the Wel­ling­ton region that host inter­na­tion­al stu­dents, Grow Wel­ling­ton also links up with oth­er eco­nom­ic devel­op­ment agen­cies, region­al edu­ca­tion­al groups and Edu­ca­tion New Zea­l­and to pro­mote Wel­ling­ton edu­ca­tion products around the world, says Wel­ling­ton may­or­al seni­or com­mu­nic­a­tions adviser, Phil Reed.

EWI and Wel­ling­ton City Council’s suc­cess­ful May­or­al Inter­na­tion­al Stu­dent Wel­come at Te Papa in March was a good example of the pos­it­ive growth in the capital’s export edu­ca­tion mar­ket, with more than 500 inter­na­tion­al stu­dents in attendance.

There are [now] almost 7,000 inter­na­tion­al stu­dents in Wel­ling­ton and they con­trib­ute sig­ni­fic­antly to the loc­al eco­nomy,” says Reed. “They also make a valu­able social and cul­tur­al contribution.”

International Students 1Kāpiti Col­lege, an hour north of the city, is keep­ing the region­al beacons lit, provid­ing one of the largest inter­na­tion­al pro­grammes in the great­er Wel­ling­ton area, with 58 stu­dents from 13 dif­fer­ent coun­tries cur­rently enrolled. Depart­ment dir­ect­or Steve Burt has been in the job for ten years, part of which involves act­ively mar­ket­ing and recruit­ing over­seas, as well as provid­ing pas­tor­al care for the cur­rent inter­na­tion­al stu­dents at the col­lege, along­side teach­ing and mon­it­or­ing their aca­dem­ic progress.

He says Kāpiti mar­kets mainly on its own, at a series of edu­ca­tion fairs, through edu­ca­tion agents, par­ents and ‘sis­ter’ schools with whom they have developed rela­tion­ships through host­ing pre­vi­ous students.

Our philo­sophy is to inter­na­tion­al­ise Kāpiti Col­lege and make it a high school that stu­dents from many coun­tries would love to come to, to devel­op their edu­ca­tion and their Eng­lish,” he says. “The gains Kāpiti stu­dents can make for this cul­tur­al exchange are price­less for all.”

Price though, is some­thing that does come into the equa­tion, with Kāpiti list­ing fees on its web­site of almost $11,000 per year for study, $250 per week homestay fees and oth­er costs of more than $3,000, exclud­ing flights, any spend­ing money or extra-cur­ricular activ­it­ies for the stu­dent. This is not even the most expens­ive pro­gramme out there. It seems a new Zea­l­and edu­ca­tion may not be access­ible to everyone.

Burt says there’s no doubt that the col­lege is involved in inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion par­tially for profit, but that this money is destined to be chan­nelled back to both Kiwi and for­eign students.

The New Zea­l­and gov­ern­ment is keen for Kiwi schools to have a steady rev­en­ue stream that can be poured back into resources,” he says. “Many of the kids’ par­ents also come out and spend tour­ism money while deliv­er­ing or pick­ing up their children.”

With their pro­gramme run­ning suc­cess­fully, and prov­ing fin­an­cially viable, Kāpiti Col­lege has star­ted a new concept with­in its inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion pro­gramme, run­ning a spe­cial­ised inter­na­tion­al class mix­ing the stu­dents from over­seas with Kiwi stu­dents at the col­lege. Burt says anoth­er teach­er came up with the idea after tak­ing a group of New Zea­l­and stu­dents to stay in Bangkok, at one of the college’s part­ner schools.

He pro­posed hav­ing a class of Kiwi kids in Year 10 who would learn about social stud­ies and Eng­lish, with a focus on the rest of the world,” he explains. “They would begin to learn Man­dar­in and Thai, and inter­na­tion­al stu­dents would be added to the class as they arrived dur­ing the year. The Kiwi kids had to apply to get in after a par­ent inform­a­tion even­ing, and [they] would be offered first rights to go on a trip to Thai­l­and or to China in Novem­ber. So far everything is going bet­ter than could be hoped for and the class is devel­op­ing a won­der­ful learn­ing culture.”

Accord­ing to Burt, as well as focus­ing on cul­tures from oth­er coun­tries Kāpiti’s inter­na­tion­al depart­ment offers the oppor­tun­ity to exper­i­ence Māori cul­ture, enrich­ing that aspect of the school’s identity.

The school marae hosts pōwhiri for all vis­it­ors and new stu­dents,” he says. “Recently, there were pōwhiri for 150 Japan­ese stu­dents from Tokai Uray­asu High School in Tokyo, who came for two days, and we are presently host­ing 16 stu­dents from Bangkok, who also were giv­en a pōwhiri. This mix­ing of the cul­tures is anoth­er import­ant aspect of the programme.”

Sev­er­al inter­na­tion­al stu­dents cur­rently enrolled at Kāpiti have found the exper­i­ence so valu­able that they have plans to remain in New Zea­l­and until they reach ter­tiary education.

Mayoral International Student Welcome at Te Papa

Zi Goh is 17 and comes from Singa­pore. She is in her third year of study at Kāpiti, and plans to stay through to uni­ver­sity. Ori­gin­ally shy and quiet, Zi says she has opened up socially, and is now the college’s head inter­na­tion­al stu­dent, help­ing organ­ise events and activ­it­ies, and act­ing as ment­or to young­er or newly arrived stu­dents find­ing their feet. She says the biggest chal­lenge she has come across is a change of host fam­ily a while back.

There weren’t major prob­lems [with the first homestay] but I feel like I fit bet­ter now,” she says. “I just didn’t bond quite so well the first time.”

Ryo Maeda, from Japan, also had a change of homestay fam­ily, but is grate­ful for all his exper­i­ences in New Zea­l­and, identi­fy­ing strongly with his Kiwi friends, and speak­ing Eng­lish flu­ently with a Kiwi twang and plenty of col­lo­qui­al­isms thrown in, des­pite arriv­ing know­ing only how to say one-word basics such as yes and no. Cheeky and soci­able Ryo says he’s had no prob­lems bond­ing, and takes every oppor­tun­ity he can to hang out with both his Kiwi and inter­na­tion­al stu­dent mates, par­tic­u­larly if there are any pretty girls around, illus­trat­ing that being 17 has its sim­il­ar traits wherever you come from in the world.

Mayoral International Student Welcome at Te Papa            Tony Lee from South Korea has a more ser­i­ous demean­our, but his eyes light up when he explains that he is study­ing avi­ation through Kāpiti Col­lege, learn­ing to fly at the nearby Kapiti Aero Club. At 16, he is determ­ined to stay in New Zea­l­and for the fore­see­able future.

It was easi­er than I thought [to come to New Zea­l­and],” he says. “I felt well adap­ted, and I want to stay until uni­ver­sity so I can become a pilot, which is some­thing I could not do in South Korea.”

Burt says many of the college’s cur­rent stu­dents look set to fol­low in the foot­steps of their oth­er inter­na­tion­al gradu­ates, who have gone on to achieve in many dif­fer­ent areas. These include a Chinese stu­dent who arrived in Year 10 with her moth­er in tow as she was so young, who has now com­pleted a teach­ing degree; a Viet­namese boy who went on to gain an engin­eer­ing degree at Can­ter­bury and returned to work for his father’s engin­eer­ing firm in Viet­nam; a Japan­ese girl who made the Nation­al Youth Orches­tra; and a Japan­ese boy who rep­res­en­ted his New Zea­l­and Bas­ket­ball Academy’s team in Las Vegas.

With so many pos­it­ive stor­ies to tell, the exper­i­ences of stu­dents com­ing to New Zea­l­and to study indic­ate the qual­ity of the inter­na­tion­al pro­grammes being run at schools such as Kāpiti, and oth­ers across the country.

With the eco­nom­ic bene­fits taken into con­sid­er­a­tion as much as the social and cul­tur­al ones, going both ways, it makes sense for there to be top-level sup­port for inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion in New Zea­l­and schools, build­ing stronger rela­tion­ships with edu­ca­tion pro­viders in oth­er coun­tries, and part­ner­ship agen­cies here.

Hope­fully, the flow-on effect will be the fur­ther open­ing up of oppor­tun­it­ies for Kiwi kids in over­seas study. Maybe, the more we are will­ing to offer inter­na­tion­al edu­ca­tion pro­grammes here, the more they will be offered to Kiwi stu­dents in oth­er coun­tries and schools, so that any stu­dent, regard­less of decile or fin­an­cial means, can have the chance to broaden their horizons.

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