New Zealand's export-education sector has a sordid underbelly that seemingly refuses to clean itself-up, despite repeated popular resentments and changes in the governments.
The latest, in the long list of saga of exposure of this dark underbelly of the international education sector, is the cancellation of registration of Auckland based Kiwi Institute of Training and Education (KITE) institution.
A group of international students, primarily from India, has once again been left in limbo in this country after another Private Training Institute where they have been studying, for years in some cases, has been deregistered by New Zealand Qualifications Authority.
The institute had come under scanner when NZQA cancelled its registration, and the institute chose to go under liquidation rather than stepping up and negotiating with authorities for enhancing quality-control measures.
The students have been categorically told that they would not be able to continue their studies at the institute anymore, thus putting on stake their massive investments for obtaining foreign education – an oft-repeated experience for many international students.
International education contributes $5.1 billion to New Zealand's economy and is New Zealand's fourth-largest export earner, supporting 47,490 jobs.
It also contributes to tourism, regional growth and long-term trade, investment and diplomacy.
However, like any other growing sector, there is a dirty underbelly of export education sector that continues to erupt on regular intervals, irrespective of the change in governments, often victimising only the international students, regardless of many other stakeholders within the sector.
Often a closure of an educational institute halfway through the completion of respective courses, poses a risk for international student's future and past, both, as their career, monies and often lives, come on line every time such a decision is arbitrarily imposed on them.
Understandably, the level of anxieties and uncertainties within the international student community and the broader Kiwi-Indian community escalates to a different level, every time such an underbelly of the export-education is exposed.
The question that permeates through the minds of the hapless international students, their families, supporters and the broader community, is that how come educational courses and institutions, previously vetted by NZQA, Education New Zealand, and marketed by government agencies in international education market, can suddenly be allowed to crumble under the guise of ensuring quality in the delivery of the courses.
What happens to the promise of pastoral care to international students?
Is there an appropriate government policy for offering support to the foreign students who are left in the lurch once their respective educational institutions become in-operational for a variety of reasons?
Notably, earlier this year in January 2019, the government had imposed a new Export Education Levy (EEL) rates, with a promise that the increased rates will go towards funding reimbursements for international students caught out by programme and provider closures.
The EEL is collected from international education providers to help fund a broad range of activities and projects relating to the export education industry, including, promotion and marketing, and quality assurance.
It will be a real shame if the students caught-up in this recent closure of the KITE institute are not adequately supported, as is being suggested, in many media-commentaries sighting students' frustration for being left "un-supported."
The period from 2017 onwards has witnessed a dramatic increase in the closure of educational institutes or deregistration increasing resulting in relatively high reimbursements ($4.1 million since January 2017, including $2.4 million since the beginning of 2018).
However, till date there has not been any systematic measures in place, to completely eradicate the existing disconnect between Education New Zealand's marketing of programs and courses that are below-par and not up to the required levels as expected by NZQA.
In the end, every time, it is hapless international students, who are left in limbo, without any punitive action imposed on others stakeholders who continue to sell the dream of high-quality education in the overseas education market.