NZ International Education Conference
The New Zealand International Education Conference Howard Fancy Secretary for Education
Reputations can make or break futures and livelihoods.
Anyone in business, self employed or in the job market will tell you that.
Education is no different
The overall reputation of our domestic education system will determine the shape, make up and success of our export education industry in the years to come.
A strong international focus to our education system is a new phenomenon.
We have experienced rapid growth in the past few years - especially with student numbers.
But we have also had some high profile setbacks that have demonstrated how quickly reputations can be damaged or lost.
We have a real opportunity to learn from the experience to date and make long term and crucial decisions about the future quality and relationships upon which international education success can be built.
Your conference is an important opportunity for exploring those ways ahead for both developing and maintaining a future edge. Quality education key to success
Critical to success must be the commitment to quality at both an individual provider and sector level.
Long term success requires a domestic system that is internationally recognised for its student success, teaching quality, research and innovation.
We will need to provide high levels of assurance about quality and its different dimensions.
We need to ensure that we are not only committed to the success of an international student but also to the success of every student who participates in our education system - whether it’s early childhood education, schooling or tertiary education. I may sound like a stuck record on this but I make no apologies for doing so and I will continue to do so for as long as I am in this job.
12 months ago at this conference in Wellington I set out three actions needed to improve our international education industry.
First was the need to ensure international education was seen as integral to, and not separate from, a strong domestic education sector.
Second was the critical need for high levels of assurance of student safety and quality of programmes.
Third was the need of the industry to broaden its focus away from the emphasis on student numbers.
While a year has passed, the imperative for quality has not. If anything the need to lift and lock in quality is gaining impetus.
Quality is the most basic critical success factor for our international education industry. It is fundamental to a sustainable and successful export education industry. That means ensuring quality across the board - in educational outcomes, pastoral care and relationships.
A number of dimensions of quality, including pastoral care were surveyed in the recent national survey of international students in New Zealand. The survey said that while we were doing well for many students there were a number of areas where we must do better.
For example, the quality of pastoral care was singled out by the judges of this year’s recent export awards when they awarded Wellington High School the education export honour.
Ultimately it will the quality of an international students learning, pastoral care and whole New Zealand experience that will carry much of New Zealand’s reputation. It will be the students when they write home or go home who will carry the message about our quality and whether this is a good place to come to.
If we can have tens of thousands of students returning home talking up New Zealand, and tapping into those experiences as their careers develop and grow all of New Zealand will benefit.
Quality and how the education exporter does business
Looking ahead, the future needs to be much less about attracting high volumes of students.
Rather it needs to be much more about developing different learning pathways and packages that can be offered to students.
It will require the development of a wide range of deeper international and domestic relationships. These will include exchanges of teachers, academics, international partnerships and different forms of intellectual property.
Look at other successful export industries. Their success is built on relationships and understandings that underpin alliances that in turn shape and drive both product and market development.
They get the high value added from the way they add value not seek volumes.
Their experience tells us there are pay offs in developing quality products, quality markets and quality relationships with suppliers and customers.
Our manufacturing exporters have a story to tell, that we should listen to. Initially their export markets were built on a simple model – the “travelling salesman with product in suitcase” approach. Now things are much more sophisticated, and it’s working.
At the heart of their export markets today is products that better meet the needs of the markets, and deeper and more strategic relationships both onshore and offshore. A few months ago I was in Asia with an education mission led by the Minister of Education. The mission got clear and unambiguous advice from our Trade Commissioner in Vietnam.
She saw the english language education market getting a lot more competitive with the prospect of aggressive price cutting ahead simply as different countries competed for the volume of students.
Her advice was unequivocal. She strongly advised New Zealand providers not to compete on this basis. She argued that it was vital to our long term interests to anchor our long term stake in Vietnam only at the high quality end of the market.
There are many ways in which this can be done.
We saw an example in Thailand where one school through its relationship with three New Zealand schools provided certainty in terms of the numbers of students who would study in New Zealand. This allowed the relationship to then focus on ensuring students were selected for success and all partners could focus on ensuring that those students would access the best possible teaching.
It may involve promoting pathways within New Zealand that would see a student attending a quality English language school seeing success as providing a springboard to enter and excel at university, or even possibly clearing the way for guaranteed entry to university.
Innovation might mean education providers working together to offer different and increased pathways and education packages in our system here, but also complementing these pathways into the education system of the student’s home country.
Take teacher exchanges as an example. Already we see exchanges between organisations which help build the English language skills and capability of those where English is not the first language.
But we get more from these exchanges if the educational experiences offered to a teacher are extended to provide additional professional development in other disciplines.
Innovation may involve partnering with an overseas institution to provide our english language expertise on their campus or twinning arrangements where students can study in both New Zealand, and their home or a different country.
In the future international education relationships may derive from relationships between the respective enterprise sectors. Collaboration needs to extend to making linkages to the provision of wider education services such as curriculum materials, assessment tools and the application of ICT.
The role of Education New Zealand in supporting and leading the development of this approach and helping to foster collaboration and co-ordination is an important one.
The development of such approaches also need to be supported and influenced though the work of many government agencies as part of developing the wider infrastructure, framing education within the context of international trade and political relationships, and building quality. The influence of the international market place
The education system is increasingly internationalised.
International dimensions are increasingly evident in many aspects of our education system.
More New Zealand teachers, researchers and students are likely to work or study in another country’s system.
Countries are going to increasingly benchmark their education systems against international benchmarks and standards.
International benchmarking provides students and parents with more information about the performance of different education systems.
That means that increasingly international perspectives will become a significant driver of domestic quality.
ICT will facilitate more international linkages.
Government to government relationships are likely to grow in importance. Official visits to the USA, Europe, Asia, Latin and South America and the Middle East over the past two years highlight this.
Almost without exception, the officials I have met in other countries and those international education delegations that have come here make it clear that it is only worth sending students to New Zealand if they succeeded educationally and personally.
But it doesn’t stop there.
To invest the time, commitment and resource in developing an education relationship with us these education players need more.
They want and expect an educational relationship that is based on quality and added value.
By added value they are looking for not only the development of our education system – but the development of their own, and they want wider relationships with their countries. It’s more than just a formal learning experience
Education and New Zealand’s international reputation and relationships
International education is not just about adding to our export earnings. It has a role to play in developing our country-to-country relationships, our trade and diplomatic links and our ongoing contacts and market development.
For nations like New Zealand, the growing relationships and alliances between countries, and government to government are important to our economic success.
Our reputation and image on the world stage helps shape these relationships and attitudes towards us as a nation.
From my experience, overseas people take notice when the New Zealand end is willing to invest the time to get it right and understand and bridge cultural and system differences. When they see this happening they see a willingness to invest in the success and safety of their students and in the development of their education systems. China, and to some extent the Middle East want education framed within a wider relationship and not as a one-way revenue earner for New Zealand. They look for relationships that involve reciprocal commitments to help them build their education systems, to invest in providing their students with health, educational and cultural safety.
This raises some important questions:
1. How does international education complements our foreign, diplomatic and trade relationships? And do we recognise this and tap into the opportunity?
2. Do we think differently in a strategic way about the relationships we should build with students in different countries and between different countries?
3. How can international education relationships build capability in New Zealand as well as that in another country?
4. In pursuing overseas opportunities how do we ensure that this does not come at the cost of weakening New Zealand’s domestic capabilities?
Strengthening the Kiwi educational experience
I would like to sum up with a caveat on the comments I have made so far.
We can’t put the education of our domestic student body at risk as overseas students and export opportunities are pursued.
We have to focus on what international education means for our domestic students.
We’ve got to pose and answer the question – what’s in it for our New Zealand students?
A strong and sustainable international sector also requires a strong commitment to investing in building domestic quality and capabilities.
International students and international relationships can strengthen the quality of the experience for the New Zealand student.
Moving from quantity of students to quality of experience in the international education market is crucial to achieving this.
To be successful education exporters you need to develop a product that strengthens the educational experience of Kiwi kids.
We need to have a system that provides good learning outcomes for all students.
internationalisation of education is still developing and
there are many uncertainties. But one given will be the
dependence on how well our domestic system performs, how our
students achieve and the quality of our infrastructure,
policies, researchers, and educators.