July 2012 issue

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New Zealand high schools

New Zealand’s high schools pride themselves on providing high-quality, low-cost secondary education that can pave the way to a range of tertiary opportunities. Jane Vernon Smith finds out more.

As well as being reasonably priced, New Zealand probably has fewer international students, Anne Holmes at Shirley Boys’ High School in Christchurch comments, adding there is less competition for those moving on to higher education in the country.

Moreover, says Glenis Sim at Dunedin-based Queen’s High School, education in New Zealand offers students the opportunity “to experience a different lifestyle in a beautiful country, where outdoor education, the arts and technology are all parts of the school curriculum”. Mike Corkery of John McGlashan College, also in Dunedin, highlights the high quality of education and good range of choice the country offers, while Steve Burt at Kapiti College, Raumati Beach, notes an emphasis on “critical thinking, rather than regurgitation [of facts]”.

The standard qualification is the National Certificate of Educational Achievement, which is taken in three parts in years 11, 12 and 13. Some schools – such as John McGlashan – also offer the International Baccalaureate (IB).

In order to prepare international students, many will need English language support. At most schools students take an English language test on arrival to determine the amount of support needed. At Kapiti, explains Burt, some begin studying an academic subject alongside Esol, while those with very little English proficiency are supported by the school’s English Language Academy. Westlake Girls’ High School, Takapuna, also tests on arrival, and offers standard English language support and English for Academic Purposes, says Elizabeth Mead. Shirley Boys’ High School also offers external exams such as Ielts.

While international students usually start in February at the beginning of the academic year, most schools are flexible with start dates. “Sometimes,” notes Corkery, “it is good to enrol in July, to give time to adjust and come to terms with living and studying in a different country for six months, before beginning the full course in February the following year.” Burt adds, “We even have some students arriving in term four, and staying over the Christmas holidays.”

Tuition fees at schools in this article range from just below NZ$10,000 (US$7,849) per year at Kapiti to NZ$15,500 (US$11,773) per year at John McGlashan, while the average is around NZ$12,500 (US$9,811). This excludes accommodation and potential administration and pastoral care fees. Some schools, including John McGlashan College and Nelson-based Nelson College for Girls, are able to offer a choice of in-house boarding or homestay accommodation. As Cathy Ewing explains, costs vary slightly at Nelson, but amount to approximately NZ$11,000 (US$8,633) per year. About half the school’s international students board at the school and about half are in homestay, she reports.

After completing school studies in New Zealand, international students pursue a variety of paths, some returning home, some moving on to university in other countries and others still remaining in New Zealand.

“A good number are interested in higher education in New Zealand,” asserts Mead, “especially at the highly ranked UoA [University of Auckland].” Meanwhile, as Corkery highlights, John McGlashan’s IB provision has enabled top-flight overseas students to gain places at top internationally-recognised universities, and many Korean students see New Zealand as a starting point for a career in the American university system, he reveals.

International student numbers at these schools range between 10 and 70, comprising varying nationalities. For Kapiti, Germany, Japan and Hong Kong represent the largest markets. Although recently, Burt observes, “More German students have arrived because of changes to the German education system; Hong Kong numbers increased for the same reason.”

Hong Kong and China are the largest source countries at John McGlashan, according to Corkery, while Korea and Thailand are traditionally strong and Europe is also well represented. In common with Shirley Boys and Queen’s, John McGlashan is seeking to grow its international numbers from a currently low base. To this end, it is looking to build new agent relationships, as is Kapiti. “We are keen to talk to any agents,” says Corkery, “but would look firstly to those with whom we could establish a long-term relationship.” At Queen’s, the main aim is to increase and redevelop relationships with agents in Korea and Thailand in particular, Sim explains, while also seeking to extend its reach to the Vietnamese market.

Key facts

• Most New Zealand secondary schools are state owned.

• There are also 100 private, fee-paying schools as well as 325 state integrated schools (largely state-funded), which may be single-sex or may be affiliated to a particular religion.

• Boarding schools are operating in both the public and private sectors.

• New Zealand secondary schools are typically for students aged 13-to-19 (Years nine-to-13). They may be known as secondary schools, high schools or colleges.

• New Zealand has a national curriculum, which is compulsory from Year one to Year 10 (inclusive).

• Students in Years 11 to 13 study towards the National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA).

• The New Zealand Ministry of Education operates a Code of Practice for the Pastoral Care of International Students, which sets minimum standards of advice and care.

• The academic year runs from February to mid-December with breaks in April, July and September.

Source: New Zealand Ministry of Education

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