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Cultural awareness underscores NZ wellbeing strategy

Health, safety and mental wellbeing underpinned by culturally appropriate service delivery are at the centre of New Zealand’s wellbeing strategy for international students, launched this month.

New ZealandThe four overarching outcomes of the strategy include economic wellbeing, education, health and wellbeing and inclusion. Photo: International Study Wellbeing Strategy.

The International Student Wellbeing Strategy, released by the Ministry of Education, outlines four key strategic outcomes to support international students and safeguard New Zealand’s reputation as a welcoming study destination.

The four overarching outcomes of the strategy include economic wellbeing, education, health and wellbeing and inclusion.

An emphasis on inclusion and cultural awareness is the undercurrent of the whole of government strategy, with three of the four key outcomes including at least one point on culturally suitable services for students.

“Our approach is to work with the industry to steadily improve outcomes, rather than threatening large parts of it”

“The strategy builds on the progress we’ve made through increased pastoral responsibilities for providers, by setting out focus areas that international students have told us make the biggest difference to their study experience,” Paul Goldsmith, minister for tertiary education, skills and employment said.

The health and wellbeing for international students outcome, for example, states: “International students are aware of and can access effective healthcare that is culturally appropriate”.

Goldsmith told The PIE News the strategy reinforces the country’s commitment to the wellbeing of international students and “acknowledges their contribution to New Zealand”.

“The government backs the international education export industry and the thousands of Kiwis employed in it. Our approach is to work with the industry to steadily improve outcomes, rather than threatening large parts of it,” he added.

The government has said it will use funding from the education exports levy to follow through on pledges to provide students with information on the delivery of support services and to enforce providers’ obligations under last year’s Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students.

Education, health and inclusion outcomes all stress cultural awareness and diversity within support services.

The industry welcomed the new strategy, with Education New Zealand acting chief executive John Goulter highlighting its emphasis on proactive change and saying, “we want to ensure there is good information available and that students have access to a wide range of support services”.

“Their education experience is obviously critical to a positive overall experience – it must meet or exceed their expectations,” he said.

According to Goulter, the strategy’s economic targets are vital to ensure students have sufficient financial resources to live and study in New Zealand and are protected against exploitation.

Under the economic wellbeing outcomes, the strategy identifies the need to protect international students against recent incidents of workplace exploitation.

“We want international students to have sufficient financial resources to enjoy their life here”

“We want international students to have sufficient financial resources to enjoy their life here, and not be potentially vulnerable to exploitative employers, landlords and others,” Goulter said.

Meanwhile, Universities New Zealand executive director Chris Whelan praised the strategy’s emphasis on deepening ties between international students and New Zealand citizens and said the country depended on the global links created by the two-way flow of students.

“We want New Zealanders studying alongside people from other countries – learning about other cultures and understanding how to work across borders,” he said.

Case studies highlighted within the strategy also reflected an emphasis on cultural competence, featuring a dedicated health clinic for Asian migrants and students.

“The GPs are supportive of raising awareness of health issues, including mental health and sexual health, to Asian international students using promotional and information channels such as ethnic associations, settlement agencies and ethnic media,” the strategy observes.

International student numbers have continued to grow in New Zealand, contributing $4.5bn to the economy and representing the country’s fourth largest export. In 2016, total enrolments grew 6% to 131,609 and YTD student visa figures from April this year show a 6% increase on 2016.

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