On Thursday, Rubina Joshi, 18, from Butwal,
was among dozens of students queuing up before the Department of
Scholarship at Kesharmahal from early in the morning. Most were there to
acquire a No Objection Certification (NOC) letter. In the queue with
her were Higher Secondary School (HSS) graduates, from both within the
Kathmandu Valley and beyond, waiting to finalise the government
formalities to pave the way to their pursuing undergraduate degrees in
Australia, the US and other such destinations.
Joshi’s dream is to become an aeronautical engineer, but that’s not something that can be achieved in her homeland, as there are no such courses available here, and the only option she has is to try to get enrolled in a foreign university. She has already received an offer letter from Monash University, Australia, and the final confirmation will be made once the payment of the first installment is made, for which the NOC is a must. “I will leave for Australia in October if all goes well,” she said, without hiding her excitement. Joshi isn’t alone in the race to go abroad. For Nepali students, getting a foreign degree has almost become a rite of passage these days.
The data from the Ministry of Education speak for themselves. A recent report shows 28,126 students got the NOC for higher studies in 71 countries in the last fiscal year, while an almost equal number left for India. On average, over a hundred students apply for the NOC every day. The education consultants, who help the students to land places abroad, say some 75 percent of these aspirants are Plus-Two graduates. If their data are anything to go by, some 50,000 students who left for India or 70 other countries last year were HSS graduates: That number accounts for almost half the total number of HSS graduates for the year. “This is a serious issue that the government needs to look at,” says Bishnu Karki, an education expert.
Nepalis who want to study abroad say that the courses they want to study are not available in the country and that they find the quality of the academic institutions here lacking. Similarly, the lack of adequate quotas in the institutions that teach professional courses such as medicine and engineering too forces them to find options abroad. Although over 8,000 students take the MBBS entrance exams, only around 1,800 seats are available inside the country, so the students have to make their way to China, the Philippines or other countries where they can afford the tuition. It’s the same with nursing, as hardly 700 students can be accommodated in the bachelor’s programmes in nursing here.
The consultants say that for
nursing, Bangalore has become the most preferred destinations for Nepali
students; and those who want to study the CA and MBA courses too have
no options but to consider Indian institutions because the quotas for
these degrees in the country are not enough. “We could stop a large
number of students from going to India if there were enough seats for
such technical degrees in the country,” says Karki.
The education consultants also say that there are countries in the West that give graduates of their colleges work permits, chances for getting permanent residency and even citizenship; that factor has played a huge part in increasing the flow of students to places such as Australia and Japan. The NOC records show that out of a total of 28,126 NOC seekers, around 19,000 was for these two countries alone. Students believe the possibility of their finding future careers in such countries beats trying to find work in Nepal, which is beset with a lack of job opportunities.
“The never-ending political turmoil doesn’t help things either,” says Hem Raj Bhattarai, who is preparing to fly to Australia to pursue a Masters in Environmental Engineering degree. “Many young people like me see going abroad as the only way to secure the future.”
According to Ram Chandra Poudel, vice-chairman of the Education Consultancy Association of Nepal, an umbrella organisation of the education consultancies in Nepal, those who go to India and China are most likely to return, as there are not many opportunities there for Nepalis. However, over 80 percent of those who go to the developed nations tend to settle down there. It’s not just the human resource that Nepal thus loses out on; the state loses billons of rupees in the money that the students spend abroad. According to estimates from education experts, over Rs 35 billion left Nepal along with the students in the last fiscal year alone.
“Going abroad is not a problem. The problem lies in the tendency of the students to not return,” says Mana Prasad Wagle, another education expert. “Those who are good at studying are leaving for Australia and Japan and the others go to the Gulf. How can the country flourish then?” he asks.
# The article was initially published in "The Kathmandu Post" with a title " The best go away".