International education key to prosperity



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Grant McPherson believes international education will have as much impact on the future of education as technology. 

Grant McPherson, Chief Executive, Education New Zealand


Grant McPhersonA generation ago New Zealand was a country that made its way internationally on the back of meat, dairy and wool exports. Today, international education is New Zealand’s fifth largest export. Each year thousands of international students are learning in New Zealand, and learning about New Zealand.

In addition to enrolling more students, exchanges, joint programmes, scholarships, professional training courses and school-to-school partnerships are connecting our educators and students with the world more than ever before.

Take Vietnam, for example. This year New Zealand has celebrated 40 years of diplomatic relations with the ASEAN region. There has also been much to celebrate in education during this commemorative year.

In November, the Prime Minister, Rt Hon John Key, the Minister of Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment, Hon Steven Joyce, myself and representatives from Academic Colleges Group, Auckland University of Technology, Massey University, Victoria University of Wellington and the University of Waikato travelled to Vietnam to strengthen our education ties with the region.

During the visit a strategic engagement plan was signed by Minister Joyce, the Vietnamese Minister of Education and Training, Pham Vu Luan, and witnessed by both the New Zealand and Vietnamese Prime Minister.

The plan will see increased student mobility and institutional partnerships in areas including English language training, human resource development and postgraduate and doctoral collaboration of benefit to Vietnam and New Zealand alike.

Three months earlier, 20 Vietnamese and Kiwi students had worked together to design a collaborative fashion collection on the theme of ‘Fusion’. A new generation of bright, young creative students from Otago Polytechnic, Massey University, Whitecliffe College of Arts and Design, AUT University, Ho Chi Minh City School of Architecture and Ha Noi University of Industrial Arts explored how they view the connections between our two cultures through fashion.

International education is providing opportunities for us to connect in a way that’s well beyond what is achieved from trading our traditional export products of milk, meat, wool and fruit.

It is also helping more Kiwi students to study in Asia. Since 2013, 465 New Zealand students have been awarded scholarships through the prestigious Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia programme.

By creating opportunities for students from the likes of Hawke’s Bay to study alongside their peers from Ho Chi Minh City and Harbin, we are giving them the chance to learn a huge amount about other cultures, form bonds that will last a lifetime, and develop knowledge that could be applied to our growing education, research and trade links with the world.

Education is changing but it is more than iPads replacing pencils. Classrooms, lecture theatres, labs and offices are now microcosms of the world, and this educational environment is preparing us to keep taking on our globally connected world.

People talk about technology breaking down the barriers of distance and making connecting easier – which is true – but I would argue that international education is having an equally important impact on creating more lasting linkages for our future prosperity.

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