Reversing brain drainLosing thousands of youths to other countries every year is bad; we must create incentives for them to return home
Going abroad for higher studies is a salient issue in Nepal’s context. According to the Ministry of Education, more than 47,000 students received a ‘No Objection’ letter this year—an all-time high. Reports indicate that students were choosing to pursue further studies in a total of 78 different countries. The top destination was Australia, followed by Japan and the US.
A common reason students cite for leaving the country is that the quality of education in Nepal is comparatively low. Other reasons are that there are not enough job opportunities here, the political situation is unstable and Nepali degrees are not recognised worldwide.
Reasons for going abroad
But do students really go to foreign countries for quality education? If so, why don’t they come back after completing their studies? Even though there is no reliable data on the number of students who return to Nepal once they finish their study abroad, it is likely that an overwhelming majority of them want to settle down in the countries where they receive their education.
For instance, in an interview taken by the Nepali Times, a student said, “In the future, I see myself settling in Australia.” Another student added, “It has been two years now and even I plan to settle here (Australia).” The third student went on to say, “I am currently doing my Bachelor’s in Accounting and Business. In the long run, I plan to settle here (Australia).” These interviews indicate that the students who leave Nepal for further studies are not eager to come back.
The irony is that when students apply for visas, all of them promise that they will come back to their home country immediately after their studies. They know that if they do not make this clear, they will not be issued a visa. But once these students enter the host country, they forget their promise. It should also be noted that the host countries themselves expect students to return to their homeland as soon as they complete their studies. This is confirmed by a statement by the former Australian ambassador to Nepal, Glenn White, who said, “I’d like to think educational reputation is the reason people come to Australia and not for the sole purpose of Permanent Residency.” The question is why Nepali students are so attracted to these foreign lands.
Nobody can deny the fact that the political situation in Nepal is not stable, which can affect educational institutions here. But the quality of education here is not as low as people think. Education providers from the private sector pay considerable attention to maintaining the quality of education. Besides, there are many colleges that are affiliated with renowned foreign universities; the courses they offer are of international standards.
I do not think the quality of education is the main issue for students who leave the country. Rather, I think it is social pressure that influences youngsters to go abroad. It is a matter of social prestige if a family has members residing in Western countries. Another reason would be to earn more money and live a luxurious life. There is a cliché that when you go to one of these countries, you start earning money that’s unmatched by what you can earn here. As a result, students fly to a foreign country in the name of achieving quality education, but most of them end up running after a number of odd jobs simply to sustain themselves. Many cannot even complete their studies. Their only purpose becomes getting permanent residency in that country at any cost.
The problem of unemployment is another driving force for these students to leave the country. Data from the Central Bureau of Statistics indicate that in 2014, approximately four million people were without jobs that suit their qualifications and skills. Furthermore, between 40,000 to 50,000 people, who have Bachelor’s or Master’s degrees, were unemployed. Another study conducted by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) on Nepali youths aged 15 to 29 shows that the unemployment rate among university graduates, at 26.1 percent, is three times higher than that of the uneducated.
These figures point out that if university graduates got jobs of their choosing or ones that are compatible with their qualifications, they would probably not leave the country in the first place, or even if did go abroad for further studies, they would come back and work in Nepal.
Earning foreign degrees, knowledge and skills is an excellent idea. Losing thousands of youths to other countries every year, however, is not a good sign, because these people are at the height of their productivity and are important for a developing nation like ours. The concerned departments must pay attention to this pressing issue.
Sharma has a PhD in English literacy education from Monash University, Australia