Hundreds of foreign students who couldn't get into New Zealand before the borders shut due to Covid-19 will be allowed to sit our national exams from overseas.
Education Minister Chris Hipkins says international students enrolled at NZ schools but unable to enter the country because of the pandemic will be able to sit National Certificate of Educational Achievement (NCEA) exams online.
"In the school sector, most of the students were in New Zealand at the time of moving to level 4," he said.
"But some went home - particularly the Germans because Lufthansa provided flights for them. Others have stayed, and others who were due to arrive have not arrived."
Schools International Education Business Association (Sieba) director John van der Zwan said 760 students enrolled in NZ schools were unable to get into the country - mostly from China because the border was closed on February 3 to anyone who had been in China.
A further 800 went home on commercial flights or repatriation flights provided by their home governments.
About two-thirds of the 12,596 international students currently in NZ schools are in Years 11 to 13, so if the same proportion applied to those who left or couldn't get in, about 1000 could be eligible to sit NCEA from overseas.
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However, van der Zwan said the actual number is more likely to be "in the mid to low hundreds".
"Certainly those students who were on the repatriation flights to Germany probably were not NCEA students. They tend not to come for multiple years and do NCEA," he said.
"But it's a fantastic move. It really does take the pressure off in an important way for those students [stuck overseas]."
Hipkins has also waived an education export levy that all educational institutions have to pay for each international student for this year and next year, to ease the financial pressure on institutions that have lost students.
The Government will pick up the tab of $7 million a year which goes towards overseas marketing and looking after students if an institution closes.
Van der Zwan said that move would help schools that still have international students, but not those whose students didn't arrive or have left.
"It goes some of the way, but it's not enough," he said.
Sieba and the Secondary Principals' Association have asked the Government for "access to emergency support schemes" to support between 1500 and 2000 school staff who recruit and look after international students.
Twenty private schools obtained $11.7 million from the Government's wage subsidy scheme because of the pandemic, but state schools were not eligible for the scheme.
Hipkins said there were "still some further Budget decisions we have got to take" around possible financial support for state schools.
National's deputy leader and education spokeswoman Nikki Kaye welcomed the decision to let foreign students sit NCEA overseas and said she suggested it when Parliament was considering the Education and Training Bill.
"I raised in select committee that the bill made it harder for NCEA to happen overseas," she said.
National's tertiary education spokesman Dr Shane Reti said the party also supported the waiver of the export education levy.
Kaye and Reti will be in Auckland todayto announce National Party proposals to reopen the border to international students in a managed way.