Looking after international students

Warm welcome: Parents talk to Learning Hawke’s Bay representatives at an education seminar in Guangzhou.

Lifestyle and pastoral care are big draw cards for parents from other countries looking for an international education for their youngsters – and Hastings is a winner in both those areas.

It also has education facilities that more than favourably compare with any across New Zealand.

Learning Hawke’s Bay returned from a 10 day trip to China in May, put together by national organisation Education NZ.

Normally the results from such a venture would take a year or more to bring results, however this time was different. Seven 11 to 13 year olds from Beijing were already booked for a Hawke’s Bay learning experience, said Learning Hawke’s Bay’s international education regional manager Steph Kennard.

“It has become more usual for parents to enroll their children on what they call a summer camp, essentially a taster, with a view to sending them over for their secondary education.”

Ms Kennard said the team, with representatives from across New Zealand, would have spoken to more than 500 parents, students, international education agents and teachers across the three regions they visited: Guangzhou, Hangzhou and Beijing.

They had stands at education fairs and visited schools. “The school visits are crucial; setting up school relationships is very important in China.”

Ms Kennard was expecting that the time spent in Guangzhou would be particularly lucrative. “It is a port city close to Hong Kong, so it is more international and the people already have general knowledge of New Zealand.”

Securing an international education in an English speaking country is highly valued by Chinese parents, she said.

“The desire is for their children to be fully immersed. That just 10 per cent of our international students are Chinese-speaking gives parents confidence that their children will be in fully English speaking classes.”

Other advantages include that from a Chinese perspective Hawke’s Bay is close to Auckland, that living costs are less expensive than in the major cities, that pastoral care is excellent, and that outdoor lifestyles are encouraged.

“We do have to be out there though,” said Ms Kennard. “There are increasing numbers of countries competing for international students. We have a great deal to offer and the income is very valuable to our region, but we cannot take it for granted.”

Hawke’s Bay’s relationship with China is very important, said Hastings mayor Lawrence Yule. “Already we have strong ties through trade and sister city relationships. This is another level again; with Chinese parents entrusting us with the education of their children.  

“As well as earning income for our region, international education opens up the world for our children sharing their classrooms with our visitors. It is important in many ways.”

As well as attending international education fairs, Education New Zealand hosts agents and journalists in New Zealand. In March Hawke’s Bay hosted education journalists from Brazil and in August a delegation of teachers will arrive from Japan.

Figures released in March showed that international education was worth $29 million to Hawke’s Bay in the 2015/16 financial year – up 10 per cent on the previous year; 1268 international students spent time in the region, each paying an average $26,856 a year for their tuition and living costs. The industry employed 134 people directly and a further 78 indirectly.

Learning Hawke’s Bay is funded by Education New Zealand, the Hastings and Napier councils, and participating educational organisations and schools.