We all want MORE from our lives – better jobs, the best education and more money and opportunities. And some of us are willing to go far to get hold of a better life –crossing geographical and cultural borders to move to distant countries.
There are over 3.6 million Indians working in developed countries in 2010-11, an increase of 83% over the previous decade! And these numbers are just for the OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries – if we take into account people migrating to the Gulf and other countries the number will be much much higher.
Impact on the country
What does it do to the country, when millions of its highly educated young men and women opt to leave? The impact is felt in all aspects of the nation – from the economy to the society.
When highly skilled and educated professionals, with degrees from premier institutes subsidized by the government, leave the country, the first impact is on the economy; it suffers in the long run by falling behind technologically and scientifically, which in turn creates an environment of knowledge stagnation that exacerbates the cycle of brain drain.
Along with the economic ramifications of brain drain, the impact on the social fabric of the country is considerable – from the individual struggle to maintain dual cultural identities to the effect on the entire Indian society.
To illustrate we take the example of the healthcare industry – Out of every 100 doctors and nurses, 8 have migrated to a developed country. In a country, which has an almost 50% shortage of doctors – with less than 1 doctor for every 1000 people – losing thousands of trained healthcare professionals impacts the society deeply. The health of individuals (especially in rural areas) and the entire population is jeopardized, in turn affecting the economy with the burden of lost manpower and rising medical costs.
The why and how of Brain Drain
People, who can move where there are opportunities. Lack of prospects, whether educational or professional, has always been the main reason for brain drain.
The process starts with education – For Simon, a 17 year old fresh out of school, going abroad for his engineering degree was not the first option, but he couldn’t get a seat in any of the premier government engineering colleges like IIT or BITS Pilani through entrance exams and pursuing a degree abroad made more sense than spending money on private colleges.
In all probability, Simon will not come back to India. The years studying aboard will lead to more years working or pursuing his MBA and nothing in his home country will be attractive enough to pull him back.
Higher education is where the first step of the brain drain problem starts – there is a serious lack of good quality infrastructure – the number of colleges and universities are not enough to manage the thousands of students leaving school every year and a large part of the existing infrastructure, especially in the fields of science and research, is not up to global standards.
Once a student has gone abroad for a degree, the lack of well paying and interesting entry level job opportunities in India keeps him looking for options outside (of course being paid in foreign currency is a huge plus, along with adding an international flavor to the resume) – and a few years turn into a lifetime!
Turning Drain into Gain?
While there is no doubt that some opportunities are only available outside the country, India, in the last decade, has come into its own.
Top Indian institutes like IITs and IIMs are investing in upgrading their facilities and are recruiting academics with foreign credentials and paying them salaries that match the global standards. The startup culture and global corporations are creating more and more high paying professional opportunities. A perfect example of these new times are the founders of Flipkart, Sachin Bansal and Binny Bansal, ranked amongst the Top 100 richest Indians they are both born, bred and educated in India.
Successive Governments have invested heavily in expanding and modernizing the higher education sector – in the decade 2000 – 2010, the number of universities has more than doubled (from 256 to 564) and the number of colleges has almost tripled (from 12806 to 33023).
It’s a process, which is starting to show results, but still, has a long way to go. Almost half of India’s population is under 26 and by 2020 India will be the youngest nation in the world. To serve the demands of millions of young Indians at home, the traditional brick and mortar education sector must be supported by open online learning systems.
Ed Tech helps retain talent
Educational technology, or Ed Tech as it is popularly called, has the potential to become one of the most important tools to stem the Brain Drain.
It allows students (and professionals) to access a wide range of educational opportunities, both national and international, without breaking their banks and with no geographical considerations. It immediately eliminates two major reasons for studying abroad – unavailability of seats/access to good educational institutes and poor or outdated quality of education.
Students can find great educational opportunities (including international ones) right at home. The reduced cost allows them to escape the student debt burden and the pressure to land a high paying job right out of college is lessened a bit.
A quick look at one of India’s eLearning companies – Talentedge – can illustrate the many possibilities of online education. Talentedge is right at the forefront of this educational revolution -they have partnered with reputed Indian and International Institutes to offer certified courses, which add real value to a student’s professional life. Their course structure is based on a formula that successfully combines cutting edge technologies, such as cloud computing and AI, with world-class pedagogy – and delivers the complete package right at the student’s doorstep!
There is no doubt that India is on the path to economic prominence. As the country prospers the rate of Brain Drain will slow down and might even reverse. But to make this a possibility, the advancement of the educational, especially online learning, and professional sectors is crucial.