Vietnam and New Zealand renew education partnership amidst robust demand

08:00 | 07/08/2020
2020 marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Vietnam and education has long been a key pillar of the partnership. John Laxon, regional director for Asia at Education New Zealand (ENZ), shared with VIR’s Thanh Van about New Zealand’s efforts to build even stronger education ties with Vietnam in the coming years.
vietnam and new zealand renew education partnership amidst robust demand
John Laxon, Regional Director for Asia at Education New Zealand (ENZ)

What are the most remarkable achievements that Vietnam and New Zealand can look back on in their cooperation in education?

The education relationship between New Zealand and Vietnam has grown remarkably in recent years, with the number of Vietnamese students in New Zealand increasing by 44 per cent since 2015 to 2,700 students in 2018. Much of this growth can be attributed to New Zealand’s strong education system which takes a high-quality, innovative teaching approach, enabling all students to gain the skills and knowledge to have a successful global career. For example, for the past two years, New Zealand has been ranked as the world’s top English-speaking country in the Economist Intelligence Unit’s Educating for the Future Index.

The New Zealand Schools Scholarships (NZSS) 2019 is the largest New Zealand school scholarship initiative offered anywhere in the world, and is dedicated exclusively to Vietnamese students. NZSS 2020 has seen an increase in the number of New Zealand schools offering scholarships – from 36 (2019) to 40 (2020) – as well as the value (all scholarships providing 50 per cent off tuition fees of first year study in New Zealand). NZSS 2020 has already finalised 22 winners for the first round with 18 scholarships still available for when international travel resumes.

Approximately 330 Vietnamese students have received New Zealand Scholarships for postgraduate study since the scheme started in 1994.

Since the 1990s, New Zealand has provided high-quality training for about 560 Vietnamese officials under English Language Training for Officials (ELTO) scholarships. Meanwhile, 11 Short-term Training Scholarships (STTS) have been offered to Vietnamese participants from both the public and private sector since 2016.

Since 2013, 143 New Zealand students have travelled to Vietnam and have undertaken internships as part of the Prime Minister’s Scholarships for Asia (PMSA) programme, demonstrating the interest of New Zealanders in a Vietnamese study and cultural experience.

This is the third time New Zealand and Vietnam have renewed their strategic engagement on education. What are the key areas of collaboration in the renewed plan?

The renewed Plan reflects the significant growth in the education relationship between New Zealand and Vietnam since 2015, and takes into account the changing international education landscape created by COVID-19. For example, the plan includes support for innovative education models in blended and online delivery, continued collaboration to improve institution-to-institution partnerships for English language training, and alumni engagement.

The plan continues New Zealand’s long-term commitment to support Vietnam’s efforts in achieving its 21st-century education objectives to produce well-trained, work-ready graduates with the skills necessary to compete in a rapidly-changing global market.

vietnam and new zealand renew education partnership amidst robust demand

The signing ceremony of Strategic Engagement Plan on Education between Education New Zealand (ENZ) and Vietnam Ministry of Education & Training

There are many New Zealand scholarships for Vietnamese students, but what about the reverse direction? Also, which programmes and initiatives would New Zealand implement to contribute to promoting the image of Vietnam to New Zealand students?

The Prime Minister’s Scholarship for Asia (PMSA) is a programme funded by the New Zealand government for New Zealand students and administered by Education New Zealand. The scholarship is awarded to individuals and currently covers costs relating to study, internships, or research in Asia. 143 students have received PMSA for their internships in Vietnam since 2013.

The New Zealand Government-funded Southeast Asia Centre of Asia-Pacific Excellence (SEA CAPE) will offer a range of opportunities for enhanced educational engagement between New Zealand and Vietnam. These will include SEA CAPE Fellowships funded by SEA CAPE with other sponsors to support engagement and the sharing of knowledge by experts from Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries in New Zealand.

Additionally, there are immersion programmes to Vietnam and other Southeast Asian countries for New Zealand tertiary and senior high school students with a view to identify business and entrepreneurial opportunities between New Zealand and Vietnam, as well as building mid-term and longer-term ties through interactions in the market will be organised.

Moreover, universities across New Zealand are encouraged to include Vietnamese university students in cultural knowledge sharing with New Zealand students.

New Zealand’s countermeasures to the COVID-19 pandemic have proven effective. Does the country plan to ease entry restrictions? Will there be priority for Vietnamese student cohorts?

At this stage, our borders remain closed for international visitors and the government is currently exploring options to bring international students back into the country in 2021. We look forward to welcoming more Vietnamese students back to New Zealand when it’s safe to do so.

In the meantime, New Zealand’s institutions are offering co-delivered programmes in partnership with their Vietnamese counterparts, which enable Vietnamese students to start their New Zealand education experience in Vietnam, given COVID-19 restrictions. These programmes range from Economics-Management, Computer Sciences, Biotechnology, and Food Technology to Arts & English Language Teaching.

During the pandemic, we have conducted market sentiment research across a number of our key partner countries and across the board,New Zealand’s attractiveness as a study destination remains high. We have always been viewed as a warm, welcoming society and a safe place to study. This perception has only strengthened following our government’s response to COVID-19 and more specifically, the support provided to our international students during such a challenging time.

vietnam and new zealand renew education partnership amidst robust demand

The New Zealand Schools Scholarships (NZSS) is the largest New Zealand school scholarship initiative offered anywhere in the world, and is dedicated exclusively to Vietnamese students

How did New Zealand support international students during and after the crisis? What is New Zealand doing to recover from the COVID-19 crisis?

The New Zealand Government has a long-standing commitment to the welfare of our international students, being the first country in the world to legislate for a pastoral code of care to support international students.

The government and education providers acted quickly with many initiatives to support students during this time, including a Government NZD$1 million ($665,000) International Student hardship Fund for international students who were experiencing unusual hardship due to the global impacts of COVID-19, supplemented by hardship funds offered by individual institutions.

The government also extended flexibility to visa policies, with students in New Zealand being able to have their visas automatically extended at no additional cost.

Work-rights for students were relaxed to allow international students to work in essential services (such as supermarkets and the healthcare sector) to support the country’s public health response to COVID-19. Students employed in an essential services role were also able to work for more than 20 hours in certain circumstances.

The government also introduced a COVID-19 wage subsidy to support employers and their employees affected by COVID-19. International students whose visa allows them to work in New Zealand and whose employment has been affected by COVID-19 were able to go through their employer to check whether they are eligible for a wage subsidy.

People in New Zealand, including international students are eligible for free, public healthcare to treat any COVID-19 symptoms.

What prospects for education collaboration do you see between New Zealand and Vietnam?

New Zealand is extremely proud of our future-proof education offering and we continue to be recognised worldwide for an education system built for the future. Through our ongoing education collaboration, New Zealand will continue to play a part in producing Vietnamese leaders of the future.

This education collaboration builds on a strong partnership between our countries and peoples, reflected by the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations this year between Vietnam and New Zealand, and the signing of a strategic partnership between both countries in July 2020.

We look forward to another productive 45 years of relations between our countries, and education partnerships that allow our young people of Vietnam and New Zealand to thrive on the global stage.

By Thanh Van

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