Fall in international pupils ‘big thing for all schools’

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Fun place...Happy to be here is this group of international pupils at Geraldine High High School. PHOTO: GERALDINE HS

by Chris Tobin

At the beginning of the year, 135 international pupils were welcomed to South Canterbury but with border restrictions unlikely to be lifted, no newcomers are expected in 2021.

“With Covid-19 we’ve got four left,” Mountainview High School international student director John Wilson said.

“There should be 18. The biggest impact is that we will not get 25 full-time-equivalent students for next year.

“It’s a big thing for all schools – it affects staffing.”

Craighead Diocesan School principal Lindy Graham said the school was not expecting any new international pupils for the 2021 school year.

“Perhaps longer – the costs/criteria of entering New Zealand under the current circumstances are now prohibitive, and we must accept and respect the Government’s decision around border control and managed isolation.”

Mrs Graham, who is also chairwoman of the Aoraki Secondary Principals’ Association, said the financial impact of losing international pupils would not be as great as in other parts of the country.

“For us, it’s more about the cultural connection and understanding, rather than relying on the income generated.

“This might be different for big city schools, such as in Auckland,” she said.

“We hope to retain most of the international students we currently have enrolled for 2021, and will ensure that they are well looked after in the meantime.

“Our homestay families are brilliant. The other schools are likely to be in the same position – we try and work together for the best outcomes for all.”

Pupils who came to South Canterbury schools were generally here for a long time and many went on to study at New Zealand universities, she said.

Geraldine High School had 10 international pupils at the beginning of the year, five of whom had returned home but not due to Covid-19, director of international students Kerri Doy said.

The five remaining had adjusted well.

Welcomed…Geraldine High school international pupils are welcomed to the district earlier in the year by Timaru mayor Nigel Bowen. PHOTO: GERALDINE HS

“Although they are worried about the situation in their home countries, they are happy to be here studying,” she said.

“They believe that they are in the best part of the world during this pandemic and are happy to experience our culture and school life.”

Again, like all other schools, no international pupils would be coming to Geraldine next year.

Education South Canterbury chairwoman Leonie Rasmussen said the organisation would continue to promote the region overseas as a place of learning.

“While there is uncertainty across all of New Zealand for the sector we remain focused on future planning and strategies for the return of international students to our region.

“We continue to work closely with Education New Zealand and other bodies regionally and nationally as required to ensure a coherent approach for when the borders reopen.”

Ara Institute of Canterbury international director Beth Knowles said Ara continued to receive many queries and applications from overseas.

There were 12 international equivalent full-time students (EFTS) enrolled at the Timaru campus this year, compared with 19 last year.

“We are supporting students to get offers of place for 2021 so they will be ready and able to attend classes at Ara once the [Government’s] student entry protocol is agreed upon.

“Presently, we are advising all prospective international students that they should apply as per usual.”

Ara’s 2019 annual report stated 980 international EFTS were enrolled, significantly higher than in 2017 or 2018.

“Most of the 2019 increase was due to a higher number of students from India and Southeast Asia,” Ms Knowles said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has said granting international students entry would be considered in the new year.