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Developing international education

1 April 2004

Speech Notes

Developing international education

Speech to the Wellington Diplomatic Club, Wellington

Thank you for your invitation to speak here today. I understand you are particularly interested in international education - an industry that has developed into one of our most successful export industries.

Education all over the world is becoming increasingly international in character, driven by trends such as the ICT revolution, employment markets transcending national borders, and geographically mobile students, teaching staff and researchers.

The latest estimates are that New Zealand's share of the international education industry, based on enrolments in 2002 and the first half of 2003, is worth more than $2 billion annually to the New Zealand economy. This is more than we earn from wool and wine combined, and as much as we earn from beef. There is much more to international education than just the dollars it earns for New Zealand. International education contributes to wider relationships bilaterally, regionally and with international organisations.

There is a growing expectation from overseas governments that education relationships be considered in a broader bilateral context and not simply as a means of one-way income generation for New Zealand, and our government agrees.

New Zealand is a popular destination for students wishing to improve their English language skills, and on the other side, we recognise the need to encourage our young people to also make international connections. For instance, our government has recently agreed that within the next five years, all 11 to 14-year olds in years 7 to 10 should have the chance to learn another language. We are also keen on expanding the programmes that give domestic students opportunities to study in other countries, and on increasing academic linkages and exchanges with overseas organisations. Increasing our global connectedness will provide exciting employment, education and research opportunities for young New Zealanders by exposing them to high quality research and educational experiences, whether here or overseas.

Our top priority is the work we are doing to ensure that everything we do in international education is driven by quality. It is ultimately the quality of the New Zealand educational experience, and the quality of our international people-to-people links that will continue to attract international students and underpin a sustainable and successful export education industry.

The performance and reputation of our domestic system, and the quality of our infrastructure, policies, researchers and educators is the critical part where we are focusing our attention with the help of industry organisations such as Education New Zealand.

We also need to ensure that the international students who come to New Zealand to study achieve success and meet their education goals, and have an enjoyable and positive personal experience.

You've also asked me today to talk about my new role as Coordinating Minister, Race Relations.

Underpinning our work in this area is our government's firm belief that everyone deserves a fair go - regardless of your race, where you live, what your gender is, whether you have disabilities or not, and whether you are rich or poor.

As a country we cannot afford to see any groups of New Zealanders languishing on the dole, suffering worse health than others, or lagging behind when it comes to educational achievement.

We have an aging population which will be costly in future years, so it is both essential and sensible that disadvantaged or underachieving groups in our society are given targeted help to ensure they can fully play their part in our society, and in our economy.

It's clear there are perceptions and misunderstandings about how funding is targeted, and why.

There are many groups in our country which have programmes delivered to them in different ways.

I do not believe it is healthy or constructive, let alone a fair go, to single out and blame just one racial group as being favoured over everyone else.

We have different approaches for Maori, for Pacific Islanders, for immigrants who need English language and other help, for people with disabilities, for people in rural communities, for our elderly.

One size does not fit all. New Zealand is not a boring homogenous society, and we have to make sure our programmes and policies are delivered in a way that is most effective for the groups in need.

It's my job to get the facts out there so we can have a proper, informed and rational discussion, that is not divisive, that is constructive and not destructive, as some others would prefer the approach to be.

As Coordinating Minister Race Relations I will be overseeing a review of policies to make doubly sure they are addressing need.

As a government we see this review as a priority, it will not be done half-heartedly, and I do expect changes will be made.

As Education Minister, for example, I want to make sure that if there are low-income pakeha kids facing the same educational risks and with the same educational needs as low income Maori, that they do get the same level of government help.

The review will cover targeted policy and targeted programmes and its main aim is to give the government and the public of New Zealand assurances that we do have policies and programmes that are needs based not race-based.

I think most New Zealanders are quite rightly proud of our diversity and the rich and colourful melting pot of cultures and people that make up New Zealand.

We don't want our country split down the middle and in my new role I will be doing my best to make sure that does not happen.


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