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Aus: calls for body to represent int’l school sector

There are calls for Australia’s international schools to form a representative body to help grow the sector, after figures reveal the sector suffered a 21% decline in international enrolments over the 2019/2020 period.

The international school sector in Australia is a "critical pathway" to feed into TVET and undergraduate degree programs, according to stakeholders. Photo: Unsplash

The body should provide oversight, gather data, undertake research and identify best practice models

Some 5,000 fewer students enrolled in this period with the greatest decline seen in China (a 22% drop), with enrolments from Brazil, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, India, Taiwan and Vietnam also declining in excess of 15%.

“We are driven by higher education because they have the numbers, we need to capitalise on that branding”

Education consultant and CEO of EdBiz Peter Burgess said it’s likely the impact of the pandemic will change the international schools marketplace permanently and Australia needs to be ready to respond.

“It is time for governments and supporting agencies at state, territory, and federal level to remove distance from the international education lexicon and implement a sector-connected strategy that encourages and supports the international student as they progress through the learning journey,” he explained.

Burgess said a lack of data sharing between states and territories means there are currently a lot of unknowns in the sector which is impacting on its ability to grow and gain support.

The total number of students undertaking activity in K-12 courses offshore and how many schools there are remain unclear, he noted, making it almost impossible to understand the financial contribution the sector makes to the Australian economy.

“We do know that it is a critical pathway to feed into Australian TVET and undergraduate degree programs, and the Canadians do it brilliantly and the UK does it brilliantly,” he said.

“We don’t invest in it and we haven’t invested in it most likely because there’s no data around to support it so we desperately need data on a whole range of things that can help us to make decisions to invest further and how we should invest in TNE offshore.”

He is calling for the formation of a body involving state and federal representatives to provide oversight, gather data, undertake research and identify best practice models, along with a range of other activities including strategic marketing.

“Until we get something like that where we’re not moving forward, it’s just a series of activities that are all to be commended, but they’re all done in isolation and very little sharing and no body overseeing the quality,” Burgess said.

He also believes partnering with the tertiary international education sector would provide benefits for everyone.

“We need to build a strategy that engages all of those under the one umbrella.

“We are driven by higher education because they have the numbers, we need to capitalise on that branding, that reputation we have, and bring it all together under one umbrella to have a holistic approaching and promote Australia as a quality provider of TNE. Otherwise I think we are going to lose serious market share.”

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