Growing pains for education industry

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May 10, 2003  One News (NZ)

There are concerns that not enough is being done to protect New Zealand's export education industry - the country's fourth biggest export earner.

More than 80,000 foreign fee paying students are enrolled at New Zealand schools and tertiary institutes, putting around $1.5 billion into the economy.

And in just four years student numbers have jumped from 28,000 to 82,000.

People involved in the tertiary end of the export education industry are in Nelson to discuss whether the needs of foreign students are being met.

"It has grown very quickly more quickly than any of us expected and we have just got to make sure that the systems are in place to properly look after those young people," says Education Minister Trevor Mallard.

Close to 1000 schools and tertiary institutes take on foreign fee paying students. For some schools it can contribute significantly to their budget.

The government does not want primary or secondary schools to depend on foreign fees. A downturn in the industry can have disastrous effects. This has been proved recently with the severe acute respiratory syndrome which has hit private language schools hard.

But for the industry itself to stay healthy there are calls for a national body to look after the well-being of New Zealand's international students.