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Contract Reinforces Presence in the Middle East


For release: 17 April 2006

Contract Reinforces Presence in the Middle East

Education consultancy provider hails industry's export potential


The education sector can be a significant export earner, according to an organisation which has pioneered the provision of New Zealand consultancy services to schools in the Middle East.

Multi Serve Education Trust has just been awarded a contract by the State of Qatar to mentor and assist seven new schools, as part of the country's sweeping educational reforms.

The contract will eventually bring the number of Qatari schools to have been mentored by Multi Serve to 20 and is the third of its type to be granted to the organisation since commencing operations in the oil-rich state in early 2004.

"We are delighted by this latest contract, which provides confirmation that our work is appreciated by the Qatari authorities. It's very gratifying to have earned their trust," says Multi Serve's International Director - Educational Operations, Jo Mullins.

"The contract will reinforce a trend which has seen income from our offshore operations grow both absolutely and as a percentage of our total earnings. Last year, 60 percent of our $16 million turnover was generated overseas, primarily in the Middle East and South East Asia.

"The new contract also clearly reinforces the significance of our Middle East market. Our presence in Qatar has now led to our involvement in both Oman and Jordan. We anticipate becoming involved elsewhere in the region later this year.

"New Zealanders tend to be well regarded in the Middle East, both because of our ability to work harmoniously with people of other cultures and because of our country's international stance. But, land-based industries apart, New Zealand exporters have not always given sufficient emphasis to this important region. Perhaps others could benefit from following Multi Serve's example," she says.

In addition to mentoring and assisting specific Qatari schools, Multi Serve has recently run a workshop on teaching children with special needs. It has also organised a pilot programme to support teachers in integrating computer technology into education. Both programmes have been well received by the local educational community.

In Oman, Multi Serve is supporting a group of private schools with professional development in literacy and numeracy projects. In Jordan, the organisation is working with a local consulting group to assist professional development, curriculum building and school leadership and management.

"We are comparative newcomers in the Middle East but have a longer track record in South East Asia, having successfully assisted with the creation of a high profile international school in Brunei and provided consultancy services in China and Hong Kong," Jo Mullins adds.

"At present, we are working with other educational providers and with New Zealand Trade & Enterprise in Thailand and Malaysia, to help integrate ICT into education. We have also been asked to join an Asia Development Bank mission to Vietnam, to investigate helping education reforms there.

"New Zealanders are well-placed to advise and assist with education reform, as our own school system experienced extensive reforms in the late 1980s and early 1990s. We are also highly experienced in the application of new technology in the classroom," she says.

Multi Serve consultants, working overseas on short-term contracts, include former school principals and other experienced New Zealand teachers, as well as former senior officials from the Ministry of Education and the Education Review Office (ERO).

"Our team members' expertise is not lost to New Zealand but is augmented by valuable new experience gained in challenging situations. Upon their return home, this experience is typically used to benefit our own education system. We see this as a 'win-win' for New Zealand and as a fine example of how export dollars can be generated through the expertise and abilities of our people.

"The true potential of education as an export industry has tended to be obscured by the problems associated with language schools and international students. In contrast to this, global educational consultancy is thriving and poised to make a more significant contribution to our economy," says Jo Mullins.

Founded in 1989, Multi Serve Education Trust is New Zealand's leading independent service provider to schools. Multi Serve is a charitable trust, with the net surplus arising from its activities being used to benefit New Zealand's schools.

In February 2006, Multi Serve launched the Cognition Education Research Trust, as a vehicle for channelling corporate funding into education research. Amongst the new trust's key priorities will be supporting research aimed at reducing the disparity of outcomes between New Zealand's most and least successful students.


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