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Protections For Young International Students

Stronger Protections For Young International Students

Stronger protections are to be introduced for primary and intermediate-aged international students to ensure their wellbeing in New Zealand, Education Minister Trevor Mallard announced today.

"I have had on-going concerns about the safety and welfare of primary and intermediate-aged international students studying in New Zealand without adequate parental guidance and support.

"These new measures are based first and foremost on the interests of the child, but they will also serve to further protect our billion-dollar export education industry.

"While the enrolment of primary and intermediate-aged international students provides cultural, social, economic and other benefits, it also poses risks to these students' wellbeing and development.

"As a result, there are also risks to the reputation of our quality education services in New Zealand, and to our wider international reputation.

"The Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students will be strengthened further to address these concerns," Trevor Mallard said.

Under the changes:

· The New Zealand Government will require that any international student aged 10 or under (or in Years 1-6) live with a parent or legal guardian; and

· Providers enrolling international students aged 11 - 13 (or in Years 7 and 8) living without a parent or legal guardian will be required to seek 'prior programme approval' from the Code Administrator (Ministry of Education).

"Students on group visits, such as sister city visits or approved group exchanges and students in approved boarding schools will not be subject to these new measures, but will continue to be covered by other Code provisions," Trevor Mallard said.

"The Ministry of Education has reported to me on the possible negative impacts of separation from a parental figure on very young students' educational, psychological and social development.

"Ministry research has shown international students are particularly vulnerable to these impacts due to cultural and language differences, and distance from family and their usual support networks.

"Earlier this year, the Ministry of Education had proposed that both primary- and intermediate-aged international students should live with a parent or legal guardian.

"However as a result of submissions from the sector, the proposal was changed. Submitters pointed to the need for flexibility in recognising alternative living arrangements that could work for intermediate-aged international students, as long as they were properly monitored.

"This new approach provides for stricter provisions for primary-aged international students and extends greater care and protection to intermediate-aged international students," Trevor Mallard said.

To support the new policy, Immigration Minister Lianne Dalziel said a new guardian visa is being introduced to allow the guardians of young international students to live with and care for their children while they study in New Zealand. This will apply to children aged 17 years and under, and who are enrolled for years 1 to 13 at a New Zealand school.

"The new guardian visa will be subject to standard visitor requirements including health and character. Guardian visa holders will not be entitled to work or study in courses lasting more than three months and will not be eligible for publicly subsidised services, including healthcare. For this reason, these people will be advised that comprehensive travel and health insurance is recommended before they travel," Lianne Dalziel said.

"Only one guardian visa will be issued per family, for up to a year, renewable annually, provided the student permit remains valid for that period. This is important to protect this new policy against abuse."

Trevor Mallard said the new measures would apply before the end of this school year, from the date that the required amendments to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students can be gazetted.

For those providers requiring prior programme approval, there will be a transition period to 1 July 2004 to allow them to become fully compliant with the new measures.

A 'grandparenting' scheme will allow international students already enrolled or with contractual agreements prior to gazetting, to maintain their enrolments to the end of the 2004 academic year under their existing accommodation arrangements.

The Ministry of Education's Report on Research into the Circumstances of Very Young International Students in New Zealand is available on-line at www.minedu.govt.nz/goto/international (under 'Research') or by e-mailing international.unit@minedu.govt.nz.

Questions and Answers are attached. Questions and Answers

Under the new measures, will primary schools still be able to enrol international students? Yes, primary schools will still be able to enrol international students aged 10 and under (or in Years 1-6), but only if those students are living with a parent or legal guardian.

Students on group visits, such as sister city visits or approved group exchanges and students in approved boarding schools will not be subject to these new measures, but will continue to be covered by other Code provisions.

What is a 'legal guardian'? The term 'legal guardian' refers to the person (a) usually providing for the care (including education and health) of the student in the home country; and, (b) with the right and responsibility to provide that care. This definition includes biological and adoptive parents, testamentary guardians and guardians appointed by New Zealand or foreign courts.

The definition of legal guardian does not include extended family/whanau or 'designated caregivers', under the Code.

The definition of 'legal guardian' also ties in with that which will be used by the New Zealand Immigration Service in issuing new 'guardian visas'.

What does 'prior programme approval' mean for intermediate-aged international students? 'Prior programme approval' will involve a more prescriptive and closely monitored framework for the enrolment of international students aged 11-13 (or in Years 7 and 8) living without parents or legal guardians. Prior approval will be granted through the Code Administrator (Ministry of Education).

Approval might require providers to demonstrate, for example, that their programmes include elements such as: i) individual pastoral care and education programme approval; ii) additional support for homestay providers; iii) prescriptive and detailed guidelines for pastoral care, with an emphasis on monitoring of accommodation, including regular site visits; iv) access to native speaking support people for international students; v) requirements for ongoing student/parent/provider contact, to be facilitated by the education provider.

Criteria for 'prior programme approval' will be set out in the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students, and will be finalised in consultation with the sector (see below).

How will the new measures be monitored? The new measures will be implemented through amendments to the Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students. The Code Administrator (Ministry of Education) will work with providers to ensure that the new measures are met. Providers who do not comply with the new measures will be subject to existing procedures under the Code, which allow for sanctions to be imposed or, ultimately, suspension or removal from the Code.

The Immigration Service's new 'guardian visas' will be electronically linked to the student visas issued to primary and intermediate-aged international students to help monitor whether parents or legal guardians are remaining in New Zealand with their student child.

Do the new measures affect only primary and intermediate schools? No. A small number of private training establishments (PTEs) are also currently enrolling international students aged 13 and under. For example, these students may use a course at a PTE to improve their English prior to enrolling at a New Zealand school, or attend PTE courses after school hours to improve their English.

PTEs will be required to follow the same policy.

When will the new measures come into force? The new measures will apply from the date of gazetted changes to the Code before the end of this school year. From this time, providers will only be able to accept new enrolments of international students aged 10 and under if they are living with a parent or legal guardian, and they must have prior approval to enrol international students aged 11-13 years.

For those providers seeking prior approval, there will be a transition period to 1 July 2004 to allow them to become fully compliant with the new measures. This will enable the Code Administrator to work with the sector to refine approval criteria, and enable providers to develop policies and systems necessary to achieve compliance.

What about students who are already enrolled? A number of already-enrolled international students who do not live with a parent or legal guardian may have planned to continue their primary/intermediate education in New Zealand. Some providers may have also begun accepting new enrolments and signing contracts for students under existing living arrangements for the 2004 academic year (and potentially allowing for revenue from international students in their 2004 budgets).

A 'grandparenting' scheme will allow international students already enrolled or whose parents have signed contracts prior to gazetting, to maintain their enrolments to the end of the 2004 academic year, if the provider, student and parents wish to do so. This would provide for less upheaval for the children and their families, recognising that the new policy will be announced late in this academic year.

How will parents or legal guardians overseas know about the new measures? The Ministry of Education, NZ Immigration Service, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade and NZ Trade & Enterprise will work together on and offshore to make sure that the changes are widely known. Providers will need to update publicity materials and enrolment policies to take the new measures into account, and advise existing parents or legal guardians.

How will consultation on Code amendments occur? The Ministry of Education received over 300 submissions in April this year, and over 60 submissions in June, on the review of the Code. Many of these submissions commented on proposed policy recommendations relating to very young international students.

Now that a policy decision has been made by the government, the ministry is required to consult with all signatories to the Code on the amendments necessary to implement the policy. The ministry will liase with members of the Code Primary/Intermediate Consultative Committee, and provide all signatories with the opportunity to make final submissions on proposed amendments before the changes are gazetted.

ENDS

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