21 November 2002
Foreign student debate misses the real issues
The concern over the impact of foreign fee-paying (FFP) students on domestic students and the call to limit foreign
student numbers in New Zealand schools should not deflect attention from other important issues in New Zealand
education, according to Education Forum policy advisor Norman LaRocque
"It is of concern that much of the discussion has been about the potential adverse impacts of foreign students on
domestic students, when foreign students represent less than 1.5% of all students in New Zealand schools. It is of even
greater concern that solutions with potentially significant implications such as caps on foreign student numbers are
being proposed without any demonstrated research or policy rationale," Mr LaRocque said.
While there are clearly important policy issues to be addressed with respect to FFP students, these should not deflect
attention from more general weaknesses in the current policy environment that limit teachers' and schools' ability to
meet the needs of students, said Mr LaRocque.
While the evidence on the impact of FFP students on domestic students is unclear, a study by Ludger Woessmann of the
Kiel Institute of World Economics in Germany suggests the evidence on the importance of education policy settings is
According to Woessmann's study, differences in education policies and institutions explain the large cross-country
differences in student performance in cognitive achievement tests. The study identifies a number of institutional
features of school systems that favour good performance including: school autonomy in process and personnel decisions;
competition from private education institutions; and scrutiny of students' educational performance.
"Based on this evidence, improvements in teaching and learning in New Zealand schools are more likely to come about
through reforms such as increasing competition among schools, introducing some form of national assessment and giving
schools greater autonomy rather than by capping FFP student numbers," concluded Mr LaRocque.
* Schooling Resources, Educational Institutions and Student Performance: The International Evidence, by Ludger
Woessmann, Kiel Working Paper No. 983, Kiel Institute of World Economics, Kiel