With budgets increasingly squeezed, many schools are turning to international students to help balance the books, only to discover that there are other advantages to having richly multicultural classrooms. Sadie Beckman meets some staff and students

Education: Foreign exchange

Mayoral International Student Welcome at Te Papa

Mayoral International Student Welcome at Te Papa

Mayoral International Student Welcome at Te Papa

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.

You must be logged in to post a comment Login