By Brierley Penn
Each year, more then 1.7 million students graduate from high schools in Indonesia – many of whom look at attaining an international tertiary qualification. While Australia was able to attract 17, 000 of these students last year, New Zealand had a mere 600 Indonesian nationals undertaking study across both the secondary and tertiary education sectors.
Education New Zealand has named Indonesia as one of their three priority areas in the international student market and is developing an increasing focus on attracting Indonesian students to our tertiary and secondary institutions. It aims to rebrand and market New Zealand as a premium destination for international education, and is posting of one full-time marketing professional to Indonesia.
With a target of 4000 students by 2017, the goals are ambitious, but achievable in the eyes of the Prime Minister John Key who spoke optimistically of the opportunities in his address to the recent Indonesia Forum.
Although this disparity between the Australina and New Zealand numbers attributed in part to the closer physical proximity of Australia to Indonesia, there is far more that can be done to attract Indonesian students to our shores, given the wide range of benefits which our country’s education sector can offer. Air New Zealand’s decision to reopen their direct Auckland to Bali service is a promising move.
The issue was discussed at length by leading education professionals at the Indonesia Forum particularly during a break-out session led by the Vice-Chancellor of Victoria University of Wellington, where the potential benefits of a New Zealand education from students in the region were highlighted. With high levels of tolerance and understanding of Muslim practices, a lack of negative stereotypes related particularly to Indonesian citizens, and a very well-funded education sector, New Zealand has a great deal to offer prospective students.
Concerns were raised, however, in relation to difficulties in providing additional places for these students in courses with institutional and class size constraints. This is particularly true in relation to fields for which there is a particular demand among Indonesian students, such as veterinary sciences, medicine and education.
Furthermore, a lack of institutional knowledge about Indonesian culture and language, and difficulties in finding suitable homestay options for these students were also discussed as potential obstacles to further expansion of engagement with the region.
One particular problem was highlighted in regard to the conflict between branding strategies for tourism and education, with New Zealand regularly promoted internationally as a destination for adventure-seeking tourists. This undoubtedly creates cause for concern amongst parents, who wish to finance a top-quality education, as opposed to a lifestyle choice for their children. The tension between branding strategies for the two markets must be addressed if we are to drastically increase our numbers of Indonesian students.
University officials recognized the need for a collective marketing approach, with suggestions of a ‘suite’ of course options being offered according to the specialization of each institution. The promotion of an education pathway, with secondary and tertiary education providers offering a package option lasting between five to seven years, as well as joint alumni events held in the country were also floated as potential strategies for marketing in Indonesia.
Rangitoto College principal David Hodge, highlighted the particular potential to expand Indonesian representation in the secondary sector. Hodge said that his school had attracted more students from Latvia than from Indonesia over the past decade. But given the growing wealth of the nation, and its relatively close proximity to New Zealand, it is clear that the market for students from the nation is severely unexploited.
Tertiary institutions are already beginning to build on the Indonesian potential, with a number of delegations to Indonesia being lead by major NZ tertiary institutions over the past and coming months. Overwhelmingly, an emphasis was placed on the fact that a policy of partnership, as opposed to patronage, of Indonesian universities must be promoted in order to encourage greater relations between the two nations.
Despite recent progress, the opportunity for much further growth is clear, and Education NZ, along with other leaders in the field are certainly seeking to capitalise further on the potential which Indonesian students can offer to our education sector.