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Bail-out of NZ language schools mooted

Migrants to New Zealand who don’t score 3.5 or above in the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) must sign up for English lessons when they apply for residency. However, though they must pay for these classes, there is no follow-up to check whether they ever actually attend.

Fees for the instruction can be over NZ$6,000 per applicant and the migrants have up to five years to enrol in a language school, though plenty don’t. Because of this, the scheme, called Pre-purchased English Language Tuition (PELT), has accrued a surplus of over NZ$20 million.

Immigration spokesperson for New Zealand’s opposition National Party, MP Erica Stanford, said it was “beyond belief” that there are no checks to ensure migrants are taking the classes. Alongside this, the idea of distributing the unused money to bail-out private English language schools struggling during the pandemic has been raised.

“We could potentially save hundreds of English language schools with the $20 million we’ve got sitting in an account,” said Stanford.

However, not everyone agrees.

“We appreciate the advocacy on our behalf by the National Party,” says Darren Conway, chairman of English New Zealand, “but if unused funds from the PELT are to be re-directed, it is probably best that they are focused on addressing the languages of other migrants. New Zealand is a very multicultural country and there are significant English and other language needs in the community.

“It is true that language schools dependent on the international market will need further support from government until the border opens, but a relatively modest investment of around $5 million from government will secure a sector normally worth 100 times that in GDP contribution, and that investment needn’t come at the expense of the migrant sector.”

Image courtesy of Aaron Birch on Unsplash
Liz Granirer
Liz Granirer
Liz has been a journalist for many years. She is currently editor of EL Gazette and has previously edited the magazines Young Performer, StepForward and Accounting Technician; been deputy editor on Right Start magazine; chief sub editor on Country Homes & Interiors; and sub editor on easyJet Traveller, Lonely Planet and Family Traveller magazines, along with a number of others.
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