Penguins Without Borders

May 2014


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Education Review looks at the successful education partnership struck between New Zealand and Chile. But will it continue, with fierce competition from other countries?

Schools are reportedly “incredibly impressed” with the way the Chilean students – or ‘Penguins’ as they are better known due to their distinctive black and white uniforms – have settled into Kiwi school life. However, with other countries vying for Chilean attention as well, New Zealand will have to be competitive to remain the preferred destination for the programme.

The programme, ‘Penguins Without Borders’, is the Chilean government’s secondary school scholarship scheme and grew out of a successful pilot extended to up to 100 students during the Prime Minister’s trade mission to Chile in 2013.

Education New Zealand says New Zealand is currently the only country in the world to host Chilean students through the secondary school scholarship scheme ‘Penguins Without Borders’. Former Chilean Economy, Development and Tourism Minister Pablo Longueira identified New Zealand as the destination of choice for the programme.

So far, 237 Chilean ‘Penguins’ have come to New Zealand through the programme, hosted by 47 schools around the country for two terms. Ninety six Chilean students are currently studying in New Zealand.

Wellington East Girls’ College is among those hosting the students.

“Our two Chilean ‘Penguins’ have been a delight,” says the school’s international director, Rosalind Malkin.

Malkin says in their six months at the school they will participate in three out-of-school excursions: a PE camp and two geography camps to Rotorua and National Park regions.

“We have been incredibly impressed with the way in which they have settled and integrated themselves into the school – joining sports and extracurricular activities and participating fully in all their classes. They are enthusiastic and gracious and have been most appreciative of all we have been able to offer them. Their interest in our way of life has meant that they have easily made good friends and found much to enjoy in the Wellington region.”

Malkin says the school hopes they are able to host more Penguins in the coming years.

Lisa Futschek, Education New Zealand’s regional director for the Americas, Japan and Korea, says both the Chilean and New Zealand governments place a high value on education, and recognise the enormous benefits an international education can bring – to the individual students and to the country as a whole.

“For students, the benefits go well beyond the academic, to include the important social and cultural aspects of studying abroad such as building a better understanding of another culture and developing an international outlook.”

In response to this successful scheme, New Zealand sent seven 15 and 16 year-old ‘Flying Kiwis’ to Santiago in 2013 allowing Kiwi students to develop their Spanish language skills and experience Chilean life at the schools their ‘Penguin’ peers came from.

Futschek says although the Penguins Without Borders programme has been successful, Education New Zealand is mindful of the competition from other countries.

“Education New Zealand is working closely with the new Chilean government to maintain our place as the preferred destination for the Penguins Without Borders programme. However, Chile is likely to receive competing proposals from Canada and the UK. The New Zealand proposal needs to remain as competitive and attractive as possible.”

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