Australia’s continued border closure could result in Victorian schools disbanding its international programmes, according to industry professionals. Speaking to The Age, Bendigo Senior Secondary College Principal Dale Pearce projected that some schools might decide to close their international student programmes and layoff staff due to uncertainty over when the country’s border will reopen.
“There will be some schools who I would expect would say, ‘This is marginally profitable for us anyway and it’s all too much trouble now so we can’t keep those staff on’,” Pearce was quoted saying. Also echoing him is Tracey O’Halloran. The Australian Education Assessment Services (AEAS) managing director who said some English-language programmes have been shuttered. AEAS is an education management company that helps schools market themselves abroad, in addition to providing assessment services for international school students.
The company has been working with private schools on proposals to bring back international students to Australia, including flying them in on charter flights from low-COVID places such as Singapore. O’Halloran added that she’s aware of one school that has decided to not continue their programme while other schools have not been accepting new enrolments until things are clearer.
Majority of international students in Victorian schools are from Asia
Not all education professionals agree that international programmes will be disbanded. Victorian Association of State Secondary Principals president Colin Axup projects some Victorian schools will use a wait-and-see approach before making a decision. Previously, Australia’s budget suggested that international students could return later this year through small phased programmes and gradually increase from 2022.
According to The Age, international student enrolments at Victorian schools have fallen more than 30% this year. Close to 4,900 international students were enrolled in Victorian schools at the start of this year, compared with about 6,950 a year prior. Official figures show only 448 international students commenced at Victorian schools at the start of this year, compared with close to 1,400 students in early 2020.
Victoria had Australia’s biggest international school programme before the pandemic, with 64% of international students primarily from China, Vietnam and Cambodia attending government schools. In 2020, during the first wave of COVID-19, thousands of students returned home but some 4,000 students chose to stay in Australia rather than return to their home country for remote learning. Victorian government schools have been welcoming international students for over 25 years and has over 150 accredited primary and secondary schools.