Skilled and intelligent human resources is the precondition for a developed nation. We are rather lagging behind when it comes to dispelling backwardness. Our social condition along with negligence, ignorance and irresponsibility are contributing to this.
Developed countries are taking away the developing countries' meritorious students, providing them with opportunities for higher education with attractive scholarships. They also arrange for attractive jobs once the students complete their studies.
Developed countries are prospering with the talent of the developing countries. But the underdeveloped and developing countries of the third world, like us, remain lagging behind.
Bangladeshi students have a strong tendency to go abroad for higher education. Those who are meritorious go there on scholarships and those who do not receive any, go on their own expense. Both money and brains are being drained away.
A UNESCO study said 15,034 students in 2014 went to study in UK, USA, Australia, Malaysia and Canada from Bangladesh.
According to the study, the students had to spend around 192 billion taka in six years to complete their graduate and post-graduate courses. If one-third of their gurdians would pay a visit to see them overseas, an additional 12.1 billion taka would be spent.
Other than the five countries, a good number of students go to China, Japan, Sweden, Finland, Italy, France, Turkey, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia and so on per year. A huge amount of money this way is drained overseas in foreign currency.
Other than the loss of money, the worst loss is of the brain drain. It is a big national problem. Two questions come while considering this. First, why are our children going to abroad? Second, why do not they return after completing studies?
The answer to the first question is easy. The standard environment for higher education has not been ensured here. None of the government or private universities of the country is included in international rankings.
The quality of education is questionable. Guardians are concerned about unrest on the campus and political strife. Those who can afford, therefore, send their children abroad for a quality higher education.
The answer to the second question is easy too. Those who earn a valuable degree in a developed country do not want to return to the country if they avail the dream job there as there is no such gurantee in the country.
In reality, the fault is not theirs. We have no plan to bring them back and employ them for the betterment of the nation. It is possible to build international standard educational institutions in the country if the state wills. The government each year presents a financial budget, but there is no change in the budget for higher education.
It could be assumed that the government has no plan in this regard. With the government’s patronage there has been considerable success in primary and intermediate education in the last decade. The same students do not get such support for higher education. The public universities have started to behave like the private universities recently. They are providing evening, and professional courses. There is extra earning and so the teachers are interested in this too. This is harming their performance in regular classes. The government colleges are giving certificates in BBA, MBA, and computer science, but lacking in standard education.
Global standard educational institutions could be built up if the state wants. A pilot educational institution could be built with government and non-government efforts where professors from the most renowned educational institutions around the world will take classes.
Professors from Cambridge, Oxford, Harvard, and Stanford could be available. To impart practical knowledge, the chief executives of Microsoft, Apple, and Google could take classes.
Such an institution does not even require 5 billion taka. Every year huge sums are drained only for the students studying abroad.
Europe and America are cleverly buying merit from the entire world. The percentage of American nationals in the space research centre NASA is less than 30 per cent. They are accepting meritorious people from the whole world there. This is a part of their longterm investment plan. Each of the universities in UK and USA is an industry too. They are earning foreign dollars from these institutions.
If there is government enterprise, renowned universities could be built here too. If a number of standard universities are established, other institutions of the country can borrow the experience and ensure an overall ambience of global standard education. If the government can establish at least five universities, two medical colleges along with two engineering institutions of international standard, the brain drain could be decreased to zero per cent.
Let us come to the employment sector now. The meritorious are not returning due to the lack of expected jobs and standard living. But the data and information analysis shows there is no derth of working sectors here. Foreign experts are doing jobs with big salaries here. Where is the problem then? The problem is in coordination.
According to a recent study by the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), foreigners are employed in 24 per cent readymade garments factories in our country. Due to the lack of skilled manpower foreign workers are imported in important sectors including information technology, tannery, readymade garments, tourism, tea-industry, sheepyard, construction, and heavy industries. On 16 October 2017, a Prothom Alo editorial referred to government statistics to mention that a number of 16,500 foreigners are working in the country legally. The number, though, is several hundreds of thousands, according to the concerned people.
BBC Bangla published a report in last May, on the dominance of foreigners in Bangladesh’s job market.
The level of influence by the foreigners in different sectors was shown in it. Such scenarios give the idea that salary or job sector is not a problem. We can make the meritorious return to the country by ensuring a standard employment sector.
A national plan is essential to determine suitable human resources for each sector and the required education. The government can take a long term plan for the meritorious ones. The plan should include how many experts will be needed in each sector after ten or fifteen years. A list of meritorious students is to be prepared to provide them with standard education, in home and abroad, for specialisation.
This community will become an expert group and will take the responsibility of all the sectors of the country in furture.
There is a huge difference between a local person being in a responsible position and a foreigner being there. The meritorious persons of the country can be used for its development if the government pays due attention.
*Abu Yousuf Md. Abdullah is the vice-chancellor of Khulna Northern University of Business and Technology. This article, originally published in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Nusrat Nowrin.