In February, RNZ reported that the ministry was considering limiting international students joining classes up to Year 9. The outlet reported that allowing some schools to enrol international students was unfair on those that did not enrol foreign students, added to pressure on the housing market and to teacher supply, and could distract schools from focusing on local students.
However, on May 12 the government said it would no longer follow through on the change after consultations.
“When the border was closed, we did become aware of welfare issues around having very young students, sort of trapped in New Zealand because of the relatively closed border,” Chris Hipkins told The PIE. “So we wanted to look again at just the overall arrangements for the students who are coming to New Zealand, the primary school age students.”
During the pandemic, and with New Zealand’s closed borders, schools “held up remarkably well” as many international students stayed in the country, the minister noted.
“Many of them, just because New Zealand was actually a really good place to be during Covid-19, because for a large period of the last two years, we didn’t have any Covid-19 at all, they just hunkered down and stayed,” he said.
The consultation found that New Zealand does a “pretty incredible job of the pastoral care wellbeing side, of the support arrangements for those students and their families”, he continued.
“The evidence that we’ve seen was that actually we provide them a really, really good experience”
“As a result, we’ve decided not to make any change there, but the consultation really began in this specific context of having very limited movement at the border… Actually, the evidence that we’ve seen through that process was that actually we provide them a really, really good experience.”
In some cases, pastoral care for international students is in fact stronger than that for domestic students, he suggested.
“One of the most recent developments is that we’ve actually extended many aspects of that [pastoral care] code to domestic students as well. To some extent, we’ve been doing such a good job in the international education space, it highlighted that there are few more things we could do in terms of pastoral care for our own students.”