Export education needs better management

 In opinion, Studying in NZ

educationI saw ‘Umrika’ aka ‘America,’ at the New Zealand Film Festival 2015.

It inspired me to make a similar movie set in our country, calling it ‘Zealand.’ It would have ended with a person boarding a flight with his passport and a food parcel, instead of being a stowaway in a cramped container of a cargo ship. In ‘Umrika’ the young boy paid 200,000 ‘lark’ for the privilege of this passage, while my chap would have paid much more in NZ$ for the privilege of studying in New Zealand: the country of honey and money and education.

Educational unreality

Both protagonists would have shared the ‘bhoot’ or ghostly dream of an imagined reality of opulence. At whatever the cost they were determined to achieve their dream. The reality, which awaited them, was a potential slaughterhouse.

‘Umrika’ left a cold chill down the spine; it was too close to home. The reality of an unshakable dream could not have been better portrayed. The rejoicing of those left behind, their envy and intense interest of the happenings and achievements in the foreign land was evident and shared by the family with the entire village.

It was fictitious, but nevertheless the dream lit fire in others, encouraging them to pursue it, only to find that it was just fantasy.

Kindred spirits

That script writer and I were kindred spirits, both understanding the persistent influence of British India on some sections of the population. For many Indians, the West is still a destination for settlement. It is, in effect, an escape to a perceived future of opportunities and many seem oblivious of the cost involved and unknown consequences.

Unscrupulous educational agents

The education agents who market New Zealand to potential international students in India present a rosy picture of this country and they lure the young students and their parents with the carrot of education as a pathway to permanent residence.

Therefore, an increase of 10% in student numbers from India was hardly surprising, particularly when the English requirement for student entry had been relaxed.

This increase is seen as good news as our government has a target of $5 billion of income from international student.

The target now is South India, because, as someone told me, “There is greater potential in that part of India and we have somewhat exhausted our marketing efforts in the North.”

This shift in focus by the marketers does not change the issues faced by international students from India.

Education is not a pathway to permanent residence

Those marketing New Zealand as an education destination should present the realities to potential international students, making them understand that their main purpose is to obtain one of more qualifications and return home. There are no promises of work visas or permanent residence if they come here to study as an international student. Those who wish to seek residency or work here may do so at their own ‘risk.’ Their success would depend on a number of factors, the most important of which would be their ability to convince Immigration New Zealand (INZ) that they would contribute to the growth and progress of this country.

Tough questions

I often ask, “What is being sold here: New Zealand educational qualifications or a dream?”

Over the past decade, there has been a substantial increase in the number of international students studying in New Zealand.

  • What have we done to manage the huge inflow?
  • Have we catered for the welfare of the students?
  • Is there proper pastoral care and quality education in place?
  • Should we address these issues or should we remain indifferent because it is not our problem?

When you kill someone’s dream, it goes to the very core of their being. When this is coupled with someone’s youth being invested in education but they return home with nothing but a low level qualification, we have a serious situation at hand.

The resultant stress, mental agony and financial strain which can lead to depression and suicidal tendencies are now becoming grave issues. Everyone is getting involved – INZ, Education New Zealand, the health sector and the police. This presents a considerable drain of our resources, which were not initially expected.

There is an urgent need to revisit our policies regarding international students in New Zealand.

At Idesi Legal Auckland we provide help for migrants and refugees coming to New Zealand. If you are an overseas student in NZ and need help getting a visa, get in touch.

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