The Government confirmed on Thursday morning that international fee-paying students under Year 9 will be able to continue to enrol at New Zealand schools.
It's an apparent U-turn on the Government's proposal to stop enrolments of international students under Year 9 which led to a consultation process that began on November 29 last year and ended on March 11.
The Ministry of Education discussion document cited concerns such as resourcing pressures, diversion of resources from domestic students, inequity between schools and wider migration pressures, which underpin the proposal to limit the number of international students in primary and intermediate schools.
However Education Minister Chris Hipkins said on Thursday the Government is committed to help reinvigorate and strengthen the education sector by fully reopening to international students, including those under Year 9.
“This follows a recent consultation on enrolment of these students. In the end, we decided that the benefits for both domestic and international students under Year 9 are significant and we want them to continue,” Hipkins said.
“Our international education sector has done it tough for the last few years. Bringing forward our reopening to all international students shows this Government’s strong commitment to them, and to the rebuild of high-quality, world-class, New Zealand international education.
“Prior to the pandemic, the sector was worth several billion dollars to our country and education providers. This early reopening will be seen as great news for our universities, our polytechnics and wānanga, as well as for our schools, English language schools, and for private training providers.”
There are up to 5,000 places for students to come to New Zealand now, and from July 31, all international students who meet the entry criteria can enrol to study here.
National's education spokesperson Erica Stanford told 1News the entire consultation process was unnecessary.
"We are pleased that the minister has listened to the feedback in favour of retaining international students under Year 9. The whole process has placed needless stress on schools in challenging times because it was fundamentally based on ideology not logic," she said.
Alan McIntyre, principal of Owairoa Primary School in Howick, Auckland, told 1News back in March the school employs 13 learning assistants, only three of which are ministry-funded. He said without the funding that comes from its international students, the school would lose the other 10.
On Thursday he welcomed the news and said primary school education is the first step on the New Zealand educational pathway for international students.
"Allowing under Year 9 students to continue enrolling in schools retains this key feature of the New Zealand educational journey going forward.
"International education will play an essential part in New Zealand’s post-Covid recovery strategy, so it’s great to see our submissions were listened to and that the Government has acknowledged the unanimous support of this sector of the industry," McIntyre said.
Hipkins will be travelling to the USA and South America from late May to early June to promote New Zealand as an international education destination.
On Friday, a new consultation process will begin as part of a refresh of the New Zealand International Education Strategy 2022-2030.
“The refresh of the International Education Strategy is all about recognising that we are in a very different space to where we were in 2018 and as the borders reopen, we need to support international education to come back even stronger than before,” Hipkins said.
“We want to work with the sector to build a new future, focused on the delivery of more high-value and innovative international education offerings for domestic and international students, on-shore, off-shore, in person and online.
“It also looks at how the benefits that international students bring could be shared more regionally throughout Aotearoa. This would allow more New Zealanders to benefit from the presence of these students than in the past."