Overseas Students: Does your School have a World View?

21 July 2016

There are many schools in Australia that have students who are either formal overseas exchange students or full fee paying overseas students (FFPOS). In general, schools are very pleased to have overseas students as they often see a raft of positive outcomes for the international students and for their own domestic student cohort.

The Education Services for Overseas Student Act 2000 (Cth) (ESOS Act) defines an overseas student as a person (whether within or outside Australia) who holds a student visa, but does not include students of a kind prescribed in the regulations.

Students who are not the primary holder of an international visa are known as ‘Secondary Visa Holders’ and may be enrolled in any registered school, including those not registered for international students; often as FFPOS.

It should be noted, however, that only schools that are registered with a Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students (CRICOS) number (and with their State Regulator) may enrol FFPOS for a formal course of study over more than a twelve-month period. However, student exchange programs are available to many schools that do not have a registered CRICOS number. Many of these schools arrange to host students through organisations that meet the standards of the National Consultative Committee for International Secondary Student Exchange Organisations (NCCISSE National Guidelines).

Schools, in general, can be very insular places and a traditional teacher’s classroom - even more so. The traditional school model has been described as an ‘egg carton’ approach with similar rooms lined up in rows with each teacher in their own space and not a great deal of communication between the children in each separate class. The internet has opened up these classrooms to the world – especially with the use of interactive multimedia technologies and on-line resources. In the past, connections between the classroom and the world came in the form of pen-pals, postcards and videos or movies.

However, many schools have discovered that having a student from another part of the world, on exchange or as a full time student, brings that student’s view of the world in a very real and personal sense into the classroom. It is this personal view and face-to-face reality that could be argued simply does not exist in pen-pals, interactive media, online videos, video phone calls and so forth. In addition, there are several imperatives that can be found in the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians and within the Australian Curriculum that may encourage schools to seek out a variety of means to engage their students in a more global view of education.

According to the Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians“Global integration and international mobility have increased rapidly in the past decade. As a consequence, new and exciting opportunities for Australians are emerging. This heightens the need to nurture an appreciation of and respect for social, cultural and religious diversity, and a sense of global citizenship.” 

The Australian Curriculum also supports the imperative for international education in schools and references to these imperatives may be found in the following two documents:

• Intercultural understanding involves students learning about and engaging with diverse cultures in ways that recognise commonalities and differences, create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect. Intercultural understanding involves students learning about and engaging with diverse cultures in ways that recognise commonalities and differences, create connections with others and cultivate mutual respect; and

• Cross-curricular priority: For example, Asia and Australia’s engagement with Asia: An understanding of Asia underpins the capacity of Australian students to be active and informed citizens working together to build harmonious local, regional and global communities, and build Australia’s social, intellectual and creative capital. It also builds understanding of the diversity of cultures and peoples living in Australia, fosters social inclusion and cohesion and is vital to the prosperity of Australia.

When an overseas student joins a school community, there is invariably a level of curiosity from the other students and a period of ‘cultural comparatives’ where the new student seeks to make social connections within a new, and often quite different culture and the domestic students seek to engage the student in their cultural and social norms.

Social connections for young people are usually the first and greatest priority when they arrive in a new school, let alone a new school in a new country. Language can be a barrier to some but most international students are required to have a competent grasp of spoken and written English before they commence at an Australian school. Mind you, the common use of ‘Strine’ slang can be a barrier for understanding our students even for students from other English speaking countries!

Schools need to prepare for the introduction of a new international student into their student cohort so that their introduction to Australia and to the culture of the school is not a traumatic event!

Schools, without hesitation, always do the best they can with student induction programs. Their main objectives are to educate and care for children and it is unconscionable that any school would not do their utmost best to provide any new student, let alone an international student, with a valid and welcoming induction program. This would usually involve organising accommodation, if boarding or homestay are involved, uniforms, text books, timetables, classes, school rules and behaviour management policies, student and staff mentors (these are crucial) and a raft of other services that provide for the student’s care and wellbeing. Above all, a school would seek to highlight the positive aspects of its physical environment, student population and its overall philosophy and culture. And increasingly, State and Territory child protection legal and regulatory obligations require schools to consider how they ensure the safety of overseas students as part of developing and implementing their child protection programs. For example, the Victorian Child Safe Standards (see our previous article).

However, there are other issues that schools need to identify and make provision for to ensure that the school is providing a reasonable level of care for any overseas student and ensuring that its regulatory requirements are being met.

For example, is health cover for the student required? Does the school’s insurance policy cover either overseas exchange students or FFPOS? Are there State or Territory specific registration requirements for international students that need to be met prior to and during the period of enrolment (such as Education Acts)? Can the school charge fees for international students (on exchange) and can the school claim any form of State or Federal per capita funding for the student/s? This list can be quite extensive, and certainly does not cover all possible issues. Schools need to identify all issues that pertain to them and provide solutions before they agree to take on an overseas student in any capacity.

Is your school a CRICOS registered school and do you have, or are you planning to enrol FFPOS? If so, are you aware of the changes in the ESOS Act and that these changes came into effect as of 1 July 2016? These recent changes are summarised in the resources below:

If your school is a CRICOS Registered School, is your school compliant with these changes to the ESOS Act?


About the Author

Craig D’Cruz is the National Education Consultant at CompliSpace. He can be contacted  here

CompliSpace Media

CompliSpace is an Australian company that helps over 600 non-government schools across Australia with their governance, risk, compliance and policy management. What makes us different is that we monitor over 200 sources of legal and regulatory change to ensure our clients have the updated policies and tools they need to meet new requirements. We share that knowledge with the broader Education community via School Governance.