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Mallard Speech: NZ And International Education

Hon Trevor Mallard Speech
New Zealand and international education

Speech to the UNESCO/OECD forum on trade in education services, Sydney

Speech to the UNESCO/OECD forum on trade in education services, Sydney Plenary Session 1: "Bridging the Divide - An exchange of perspectives on cross-border provision of education".

Thank you for inviting me to speak today.

I am pleased to be part of this forum, to hear from you on other aspects of trade in education services and to give you an insight into New Zealand's cross-border education provision.

From 1999 to 2003, New Zealand's public and private education providers experienced a 318 per cent increase in their enrolments of international students.

In the year to mid-2003 nearly 119,000 international students were enrolled with New Zealand education providers. The vast majority of these students were of Asian origin. Asian nations made up eight of the top 10 source countries for international students and Chinese students were the largest group.

The rapid growth in the number of students coming to New Zealand in recent years is now clearly drawing to a close. The number of students has stabilised and our international education market is changing.

The New Zealand government continues to assist the education sector to develop its capacity, both onshore and offshore, to meet this new challenge.

Our government's 2004 Budget is delivering a $40 million package of new international education initiatives over the next four years. These initiatives support a more strategic approach to international education.

We want to:strengthen quality in international education provision;boost education links with key countries; and promote research, innovation and diversification within the education sector.

Funding has also been set aside to encourage New Zealand providers to undertake innovative investments in offshore education. It is likely that tertiary institutes and other established providers will be the main recipients of this funding.

This budget investment is a five-fold increase in government spending on international education over four years. The funding also recognises the importance of international education to New Zealand - both socially and economically.

International education has been estimated to contribute more than $2.2 billion to the New Zealand economy.

We also consider it is critically important to have a strong international dimension to our education system.

The exposure we get to overseas thinking helps raise New Zealand education standards, and the people-to-people connections are important for young people as they increasingly operate in a global marketplace.

In recognition of the benefits of these connections, we are also moving to support further study by post-graduate students in New Zealand, and by New Zealand students in top overseas universities.

However, the benefits of exposure to other cultures and ways of thinking can be reduced if there is a risk of social isolation amongst students studying in an unfamiliar environment. Further research in this area is needed.

Extensive effort has been put into securing funding for research, promotion, and professional development projects. These funds are contributed by the education providers through a government-administered levy. This work is led by a representative industry body.

The provision of private education services is an important part of the growing international education sector. The demand for English language training is the main market served by these providers both in New Zealand and offshore.

As at the end of June 2004, a total of 345 language schools and other private providers were in the business of educating international students in New Zealand

In recent trade agreements and negotiation offers, New Zealand has indicated it has no market access or national treatment restrictions covering the provision of education by private institutions.

New Zealand, as do many other nations, reserves the right to impose market access and national treatment limitations on the provision of public education services. While the New Zealand government recognises the cultural, social and economic benefits resulting from the international education sector, we are naturally concerned to minimise the problems that become apparent during the rapid expansion of the sector.

This is why in 2001 we introduced a mandatory Code of Practice for the pastoral care of international students. The code obliges education providers to meet recognised standards for the wellbeing of their international students and helps to protect the students from the risks of poor experiences.

The government is active in assuring the quality of education delivered by providers, and our role will be to continue to ensure international students get quality services and value for money, whether they study in New Zealand or offshore.

New Zealand's involvement in international education has been strongly driven by the private sector and public tertiary institutes, along with state schools. The great majority of international student enrolments have been on-shore, in New Zealand.

The provision of education services in other countries is an area of great potential for New Zealand education providers. We are now moving to assist providers to operate in other countries, and to work with providers in those countries to achieve mutually beneficial results.

We are well aware that other nations, particularly Australia, have invested substantially more in this area and have much higher levels of offshore enrolments.

New Zealand education providers generally operate on a smaller scale than those in the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Australia, and so have limited resources to invest in offshore projects.

Smaller size can also mean that offshore ventures have a greater impact on their core operating capacity.

As with all export industries there are risks in expanding offshore. For example, there is likely to be a risk of damage to a country's wider education reputation, should offshore providers suffer business failure.

Also important for the offshore provision of education are the education relationships between countries. This is why the government is establishing education counsellors in a number of major countries as part of the Budget investment I mentioned earlier.

These counsellors will deepen education relationships with key education partner countries and regions. Their tasks will include building links with other nation's regulatory authorities, helping improve understanding of the respective education systems and building positive education linkages.

The New Zealand government will continue to set the standards and frameworks to ensure our international education industry continues to thrive and meet the needs of overseas students.

Thank you.

ENDS


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