People move to other places to enjoy and explore but they eventually return home after the travel. They share their experiences with other people in their neighbourhood. Many young people go abroad for further studies also. They learn things, return home with new knowledge, and use it to develop their own place. This has been an age-old tradition in many cultures of different parts of the world.
But the case is rather different in Nepal. Thousands of high school graduates want to go abroad for higher studies, but they do not like to return. Nepali parents work days and nights to make a meagre amount of money for children’s education in foreign universities without knowing how important it is for them to spend the whole money that they have earned throughout their life. From the perspective of the national economy also this is bad because a huge amount of the nation’s money goes away every year in the name of higher education. It would be a good thing if the young people had a good education and return to the home country to use their knowledge for the national development.
Brain drain But unfortunately, this does not happen. In the first place, not all foreign higher education institutions can provide good education. Secondly, young people do not like to return home after they graduate from those institutions. So, the money is a waste both ways. Furthermore, even the brilliant students who go abroad for higher studies under the scholarship scheme tend to stay in the country from where they are graduated with high grades. The fact that the people with the best brains do not like to return home after study is a brain drain.
Another group of people would like to go abroad as permanent residents (PR) in Canada, Australia, and some European countries. Many people have fled to America under the diversity visa (DV) scheme. Many of those say they like to return to their native lands which they love so dearly but they are also reluctant to return because they say there is no environment conducive for job opportunities in their home country. We have been facing an exodus abroad as an unavertable wave for the last few years. If anyone goes against this wave, they soon find that it is a futile practice because it is very hard for the crosscurrents to overcome the mainstream current. The sad fact is that brilliant brains are flowing from native lands to alien lands. We have seen many Nepalis doing excellent in their education and professions in foreign countries which they could have done in their motherlands but have sadly been away from home. This is a misfortune.
Can we regain the best brains that we have missed due to our own mistakes? Yes, we can but we should begin instantly. Since many excellent intellectuals have left the country, it seems there can be a meritorious brain drain as a consequence of which only mediocre brains remain. Even if it has been too late to start the initiative to retain them or encourage them to return, there is still time to save before the unfortunate disaster takes place. As the saying goes, “better late than never”.
Some efforts have indeed been made in this regard. The Government of Nepal has established Brain Gain Centre to encourage Nepali people from abroad to return home, but we have not had significant achievements so far. There might be something wrong with the policies and plans developed by this centre or an unfavourable political environment in the country might be the cause. It is an axiomatic truth that unless the political environment is favourable, the young intelligent people get frustrated at home and would like to go abroad. It seems patriotic sentiment is eroding. Love for one’s own country is what we feel the dire need of. When the political actors introduce an attractive package of national development, the situation quickly improves.
We can do a few things to substantially achieve the goals of brain gain. First, we should improve the quality of education of our schools both in towns and villages. For this, the teaching profession should be attractive and dignified. The concerned authorities do agree with this proposition in words but there are no achievements at the expected level. Unless school teachers are fully satisfied with their job, quality education remains only a slogan to become popular.
Second, we should promote internationalisation in university education. Nepal is a fertile ground for education internationalisation. We have enough lands with exquisite natural beauty and a temperate climate. In Kathmandu alone, millions of foreign students can be admitted especially in technical fields of education. But we should develop the physical infrastructures to meet international standards. Likewise, teachers should be competent and committed. Many competent teachers are reluctant to work in native universities and go to foreign universities. We should encourage them to come back home.
Quality education Our neighbouring countries China and India are making competent teachers return to their home countries with attractive facilities. We should do the same if we really want to improve the quality of education. This is not enough. The most important thing is we should minimise partisan politics in academic institutions although we cannot completely avoid it. An academic calendar should be implemented, credit transfer system should be applied. All university programmes should be regular and credible. Only then international students can be attracted for admission. This increases the financial resources for our universities.
Third, we should create satisfactory employment opportunities based on a merit system. Disagreeable though it may be to some socio-political activists, the quota system, which can be effective in empowering the powerless, should not be implemented in job recruitment. If we can do such things, there can be brain regain in the real sense. Otherwise, it can merely be popular rhetoric that is difficult to apply in practice.