Today, question the teenage Nepali students about their immediate plans after +2 level, a majority of them will answer, “I think I’ll be applying for abroad study”. An answer many undergrad and grad students will correspond to.
A record number of Nepalese students are planning to apply for abroad study this year. According to the figures from the Ministry of Education, the number of students that have applied for university studies overseas has increased threefold over the last four years. As many as 29,380 students had issued a No Objection Certificate (NOC), which they must obtain in order to study at an overseas university, till June of 2015 – up 4.5%. No doubt, the number is going to go up this year as one of the most popular destinations for students, the US, has abated its visa rules for Nepali students. So, why do growing number of Nepali students choose abroad study?
One reply to that is a no-brainer, i.e. the increase is driven by the perception of better quality education with more subject choices when studying abroad, an expectation that studying abroad will boost career prospects and the whole cultural experience of studying abroad. Acceptable. What other possible reasons can be pushing our youths to a foreign land?
And if it weren’t for financial constraints, these numbers would go up even higher.
So, the question persists, why is abroad study such a lure in the eyes of the Nepali youth?
The first thing that comes to mind is the state of universities and colleges in Nepal itself. There are very few colleges that provide with an education that has quality on par with the foreign countries, a number that could be counted in the fingers of one hand. On top of that, they provide a very limited number of seats. We do have the Tribhuvan University’s Institute of Medicine and Institute of Engineering that provide quality education and are known to produce graduates who are able to compete with the foreign market. We also have Kathmandu University that provides quality education. However, there are lesser than 1500 seats offered by both the institutes combined. And that is only for those pursuing medical or engineering studies. Kathmandu University offers a total of 5000 seats.
That much is not even remotely close to fulfilling the demand and supply gap in education for the students. In this age of globalization, there are many courses that one can be interested in studying that might not be available in Nepal. Even if there are courses, it is an undeniable fact that the institutions are not completely able to provide the students with proper resources. Lack of resources in the educational institutions is a major deal-breaker.
It is also a trend, probably. And all the young people, who aren’t really very informed, are following the crowd. Even parents want their children to be educated in a prestigious university abroad. Add to that the discouraging factors for staying in Nepal – no electricity, water shortages, fuel shortages, conditions of infrastructures like roads, the pollution, the list could go on and on. Going abroad sounds like a perfect solution, even if it’s only for a few years that you study there.
Politicization of educational institutes is another issue. One can have no assurance, especially in the case of Government Colleges, that the educational calendar will be followed. There is a huge prevalence of strikes, demonstrations, and other such disturbances. If that isn’t a push factor, I don’t know what is.
There is a dire lack of industries or research facilities in Nepal as well. Even those who have graduated Nepal find themselves preparing for their IELTS, TOEFL, GRE or GMAT examinations.
Additionally, everyone has a life of their own and they possess a freedom of choice on what they want to do with it. It can be a matter of personal preference whether one chooses to migrate to a foreign land or stay in Nepal. And choosing abroad study and work while staying a citizen of the country is a means of aiding to the economy, is it not?
But most of them want to apply for PR (Permanent Residence), is what would come to mind at the first thought. However, the main theme of studying abroad shouldn’t be about getting to live in a developed country and earn a lot just for personal growth. Students educated abroad in a sophisticated university can be a huge asset to Nepal’s development, should they choose to return back to their country. And why not? Aiding to the betterment of one’s homeland is a much better and plausible option.
Moreover, the earthquake that hit our country and caused a large amount of damage to all the systems in Nepal including the educational system. With the educational systems taking too long to recuperate the losses, it is inevitable that the number of students issuing an NOC will continue to increase every year.
Conclusively, students flocking abroad doesn’t seem to be the main problem. Rather the focus should be on encouraging the students to return back to Nepal after they complete their degrees. After all, the expertise they possess is just what Nepal needs to rise above the ashes. So, instead of brainwashing the students, who are at that age very malleable, if the government as well as the general public encourages them to come back and use their qualifications and expertise for uplifting the country—something that is actually worthwhile—the choice of studying abroad could actually be a good one.