Some caution from principals

The proposal to build a $60 million Chinese school in Dunedin has the potential to divert Asian international fee-paying pupils away from state secondary schools in Dunedin, which some principals believe could have a significant impact on the city's schools.

Schools have estimated each international pupil contributes up to $30,000 to the local economy through school tuition, accommodation, school uniforms and school trips, as well as personal spending.

Some of that money is used by schools to bolster their finances - a practice carried out by New Zealand secondary schools for many years.

Logan Park High School principal Jane Johnson was extremely cautious about offering support to the proposed Chinese school, because so little was known about it.

''I'm very cautious, because I would like to know more about the school.

''Is it a school just for Chinese students only, or, if it's an international school, will other ethnicities be permitted to go, and will it be a private school?''

She also questioned what curriculum the school would provide.

''How will it be set up? I need to know a lot of those parameters before I can safely commit.

''It could take students away from secondary schools, but then it might bring students, if they stay in Dunedin and New Zealand to take tertiary options, university and polytech.

''Just how it will pan out, we don't know at this stage.''

She said it could either be quite beneficial, or it could have a negative impact on recruitment of international pupils.

''It's hard to tell.''

''Certainly, the education scene has become a lot more diverse, but I would always want to protect the state system.

''This initiative is certainly an interesting one,'' she said.

Otago Girls' High School principal Linda Miller said the school enrolled more than 30 international fee-paying pupils from Asia each year, and agreed the proposed Chinese school could divert Asian fee-paying pupils away from state schools.

But she said the reality was the Chinese market was ''massive'' and she believed there would be plenty of room for the new school and state schools to maintain international pupil numbers.

''The advantage of Chinese students coming to secondary schools such as we've got in Dunedin at present, would be that they would be mixing with Kiwi students and getting a greater level of immersion into Kiwi culture and learning English language,'' Mrs Miller said.

''Presumably, parents sending their children here want them to have that English-based education and I believe that New Zealand schools would provide that much better than an international school that is solely populated by Chinese students.''

Bayfield High School is one of the city's largest recruiters of international pupils. Last year, the school had more than 70 international fee-paying pupils.

Principal Judith Forbes said she, too, was unconcerned about the financial impact of competition for international pupils in Dunedin.

''It's a different package that they [the Chinese school] are offering, compared to what Kiwi secondary schools are offering.

''It's providing a different choice for Chinese families.''

She said Dunedin secondary schools would be doing their own recruiting of pupils in different markets.

''I think that it's a good thing for the city, because having an international school here is another way of promoting Dunedin.''

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