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In our last blog we shared the news of our shiny new website being built and launched despite the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. This month we’re going to share some insights into how New Zealand has managed its response to the pandemic, the effect on our member schools and their international students, and what our future holds.

What happened when the New Zealand border closed?

The New Zealand border was closed to most international visitors (essential health workers were exempt) from 20 March 2020.

A week later we went into country-wide Alert Level 4, which meant we were instructed by our government to stay at home other than for essential personal movement or safe recreational activity. All gatherings were cancelled, all public venues were closed, educational facilities needed to operate remote learning, and non-essential service businesses were closed. Those of us who could went online to continue working or studying.

The closure of New Zealand’s border was significant for English New Zealand, our member schools and our international students. No new students are currently able to enter the country, but some providers have been offering online lessons to overseas students since the border closure. A nice alternative, but no substitute for the full immersion experience of living and learning in New Zealand.
Learn more about New Zealand’s COVID-19 Alert Levels.

What happened to the international students in New Zealand when the pandemic struck?

New Zealand was in Alert Level 4 lockdown for a very short period compared to the rest of the world — after just five weeks the virus was considered contained and we started progressing down our Alert Level system to Alert Level 1.

“A team of 5 million” was the message our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, and the government, shared when we went into the Alert Level 4 lockdown, suggesting that it was going to take every one of us to beat COVID-19. New Zealand’s management of our COVID-19 response was considered a successful operation and New Zealand received global recognition for the way our government and our people approached it.

When the impact of COVID-19 in their home countries became evident, many of the international English language students who were in New Zealand when the border closed were very keen to stay here. English New Zealand member schools have done a great job of looking after these students in these difficult times.

ENZ (Education NZ) developed an initiative called Tū Ngātahi. A programme of activity, Tū Ngātahi takes its name from a te reo Māori phrase asking us to ‘stand together’ — the initiative is designed to help our international education community come together in expressing our welcoming and hospitality towards international students already in Aotearoa New Zealand. Look out for related social media posts extending a warm welcome to international students already here, and those hoping to learn English in NZ once our borders open.

The student experience in New Zealand and our pastoral care of international students is very important to our education providers. Students who have stayed in NZ to complete their studies at an English New Zealand school have been able to enjoy face-to-face study in class and many in-person activities and travel throughout New Zealand, including during the summer holidays.

When will international students be able to travel to New Zealand again?

The COVID-19 pandemic is still having a monumental impact around the world, but there is light at the end of the tunnel — sectors are working closely with New Zealand government agencies around when we can welcome international students back to New Zealand. Exemptions are currently approved for 250 PhD students to enter, and recently entry for another 1,000 degree-level and above students was approved.

We are very much looking forward to welcoming international students of all backgrounds and education levels back to New Zealand as soon as it is safe to do so. English New Zealand has a reputation for quality and a diverse nationality mix, attracting students from around the globe. Our schools are maintaining close connections with international education agencies, so we are ready to welcome students back as soon as possible.

Aroha nui and kia kaha from English New Zealand and all our member schools!

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