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Waiting for the students

Evaluation of a press-release

LiDA portfolio assessment (V1)

This analysis is presented as part of LiDA101.

I selected this press release primarily because it was recent and readily available on the Ministry of education website. But also, it directly relates to my work – international education in New Zealand. Policy decisions that New Zealand government makes are the key determining factor for my job as an educator.

The press release was created by the Ministry of Education and, therefore, it is likely to avoid any controversial points relating to the information presented in this news item. Ministry of Education is not going to try and unpack the policy decisions that it makes to, for example, demonstrate some of the problems associated with said decisions, at least not in a short press release. For example, consider this phrase: “revising the International Education Strategic Recovery Plan (released in July 2020) so that it remains fit-for-purpose”. It is very neutral and does not provide any assessment of the recovery plan released in 2020. For all intents and purposes this press release presents the recovery plan as successful. Whether or not it actually is successful should be determined through detailed analysis with inputs from stakeholders directly affected by the recovery plan. So, in a piece presented by the Ministry of education, we can expect a generally neutral and, occasionally, positive perspective on items that could be interpreted differently by other sources.

The purpose of this message is to create a sense of security in the reader. It addresses the all-important export category for New Zealand – international education. It is also intended as a reminder to people who may be suffering as a result of closed borders that the government is taking active steps to improve their situation. Another important message here is that decisions are not being made in a participatory vacuum. The Minister doesn’t just reaffirm the commitment to bringing international education back to sustainable levels but does so in conjunction with “educational leaders”. While the article does not specify who those leaders may be, it creates a sense of inclusion and stakeholder engagement. In reality, of course, this could mean absolutely anything. Finally, the news item is supposed to reassure the reader that taxes are being wisely spent to rejuvenate all education industry. There is a very distinct mention of the budget being spent on keeping the education industry afloat, but there is no specific message on whether or not the funds already allocated had been appropriately used or if there had been a positive outcome following the interventions.

Some of the key creative techniques that were used to attract the reader’s attention were a catchy title, a summary that hints at additional details in the body of the article, and prominent positioning of the link on the front page of the official website. The total is clearly highlighted and is intended to capture the attention of the potential reader. The summary paragraph in the beginning teases interesting details in the body of the article and tries to get a casual reader to stay beyond reading the title. The positioning of the news item on the front page of education New Zealand gives it good access to audiences. There are additional hyperlinks with more information available at the end of the article and they clearly intended to get people engaged in the topic.

International students could be interpreting this message as a call to start applying to study New Zealand. It is utilising the interest towards the country based on the Covid response and general popularity with international students. International students see a positive message, some of the educational leaders who are supposed to be consulted on the distribution of resources for Covid bailout may feel like there is insufficient detail provided in this news report that does not necessarily cover some of the less influential, but no less important voices in the industry. People would react very differently to this news report based on their political preferences as well and any opinions they may hold of the current government based on their other experiences. A lot of interpretation may have nothing to do with the current news item being presented at all.

The press release seems to be missing the perspective of international students and immigration New Zealand to name just a couple. They are important stakeholders and represent the very influential voices in this conversation. This is a regular press release that may be a good starting point to find out more about the current consultation that may be happening in the sector. It also seems to suggest that most of the consultation is happening through industry associations and may not be open to public in any meaningful way. At the same time, it is intended to reinforce the idea that the government has a plan not just reacting to situations as they happen.


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