Strategic environment for international education in New Zealand

International education is important to New Zealand, both socially and economically. The education of international students in New Zealand benefits the New Zealand economy and New Zealand’s relationships with other countries. In the school sector, international students add to the cultural diversity of New Zealand schools and provide a source of revenue.

The International Education Agenda, A Strategy for 2007-2012[4], sets out the government’s vision and strategy to support the continued development of sustainable, high quality, innovative international education in New Zealand. Itincludes goals for those involved in international education. Goal 2 of the strategy and its key outcomes are the most relevant for New Zealand schools in relation to their enrolment of international students. This goal states that, international students are enriched by their education and living experiences in New Zealand when:

  • they are welcomed, receive effective orientation guidance, exemplary pastoral care, and learning support
  • they succeed academically and increasingly choose to continue their studies in New Zealand
  • they are well integrated into our educational institutions and communities.

The regulatory environment for the pastoral care of international students

Guidelines have been developed to provide a framework for education providers for the pastoral care of international students[5]. These guidelines (the Code) were established under section 238F of the Education Act 1989. The Act (section 238E) requires that a provider must be a signatory to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students before enrolling international students.

The guidelines focus on student needs according to the age of the student, their degree of independence, and other factors influencing their pastoral care needs.

The Code (s28.3) states that:

Signatories must, at least annually, review their own performance and the accuracy and relevance of all information provided to prospective and enrolled international students to ensure compliance with the Code. The outcomes of this review must be recorded in a form that can and must be made available to the Administrator if requested.

Examples of self-review guidelines and attestation forms are on the Ministry of Education website but are not compulsory.

International students in New Zealand schools

During the period 1 January to 30 April 2011, there were 11,107 international students enrolled in 578 New Zealand schools.[6] Similar numbers of international students were enrolled in each of the previous five years.

Eighty-five percent of these students were enrolled in 304 secondary or composite schools, with an average of 31 students per school. An average of six international students was enrolled in each of the 274 primary and intermediate schools.

The international students in secondary and composite schools came from a large number of countries with the biggest groups from South Korea (23 percent), China (21 percent) and Japan (14 percent). The situation for younger students was quite different, with 75 percent of the students in primary and intermediate schools coming from South Korea.

Over half of the international students enrolled in New Zealand schools attended school in the Auckland region (58 percent). The region with the next highest proportion of international students was Canterbury (11 percent), followed by around six percent in each of Wellington, Waikato, Otago and Bay of Plenty. The percentage of international students in Canterbury has decreased from 17 percent before the earthquakes which took place in 2010 and 2011.

ERO’s reporting on schools’ provision for international students

ERO has published four previous reports about international students, the first three in 2003, 2005 and 2008, and the latest in 2010. ERO has also provided updates to the Ministry of Education in 2006 and 2007.

ERO’s previous reports showed that over time schools have become more aware of their responsibilities under the Code, and that more are fully compliant with the Code.

In 2008, ERO continued to review schools’ compliance with the Code and also evaluated the quality of English language support. Overall, international students were well cared for and received good English language support. ERO noted some improvements for some schools including cross-cultural training for staff; reporting and review as required by the Code; and reporting to the board about the provision of English language support.

In 2010, ERO evaluated four aspects and reported that most schools were highly effective or generally effective in all four aspects, with schools’ self review being the weakest. Of the 93 schools included in the evaluation, all but four were compliant with the Code at the time of their review.