Overcoming brain drain for a prosperous future

During the months of June to August, Bangladesh comes alive with celebrations for the remarkable achievements of young prodigious minds. From a multitude of students earning stellar GPA 5s to achieving numerous A's and A*s, these reports often kindle hope for a more prosperous future for the Bangladeshi economy. The youth, after all, hold the key to shaping the destiny of a nation.

However, despite the annual emergence of high-achieving individuals, Bangladesh still lags behind in terms of research and innovation. Recently, our neighbouring country, India, made a significant stride by successfully establishing its presence on the lunar surface with the Chandrayaan-3 mission that landed on 23 August. Despite having a higher per capita income than India, Bangladesh doesn't garner much recognition for its inventions or space missions. The answer to this puzzle is rather straightforward: Brain Drain.

Bangladesh consistently produces an impressive array of talent in its secondary education sector. From excelling in the Physics Olympiads to economics competitions and international astrophysics contests, Bangladeshi students consistently earn recognition throughout the year. However, when the time comes to translate this potential into practical contributions, many of these talented individuals become assets to other countries as immigrants. This phenomenon isn't limited to undergraduate students; it also extends to the loss of established intellectual assets who seek higher education opportunities, such as pursuing MBAs abroad, often choosing to settle there.

According to World Bank data from 2021, Bangladesh's human capital flight rate is rated at 7.00 on a scale of 10.00. Furthermore, Bangladesh ranks 31st out of 173 countries facing significant brain drain, with 82% of young people preferring to migrate abroad due to the availability of better living standards.

Approximately 13 million Bangladeshis reside abroad, and this number continues to rise. Among them, several are actively contributing to foreign economies as decision-makers, analysts, and professionals in various fields that could be of great value to their home countries. This prompts us to question: Why are they leaving? Why are 250,000 foreign professionals filling positions in our country when we produce numerous brilliant engineers, doctors, business analysts, and professionals in various fields? Why are they opting to contribute to other countries rather than their own?

The job market needs to diversify its offerings to attract individuals to work within the country rather than seeking employment abroad. Labour security laws must be enhanced to provide employees with greater job security. Salary ranges, along with fringe benefits, must be improved

The primary reason that becomes evident is not the absence of resources but rather the uneven distribution of funds within the tertiary education sector. The countries that attract these students often provide rigorous, research-based educational programs at all levels. In contrast, Bangladesh's tertiary education still relies heavily on traditional methods, using textbooks and existing knowledge. This conventional approach makes learning more monotonous and less explorative, constraining the ability of these talented individuals to unlock their full potential. Many of them recognize this lack of opportunities and are drawn to seeking higher education in developed countries such as the United States of America, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Australia, all of which are common destinations. Graduating from top universities in these countries often paves the way for greater recognition and lucrative job opportunities, ultimately leading to settling abroad.

To address this crisis, Bangladesh must take proactive steps. Our prime minister has acknowledged the need to develop higher education and foster a promising future. In June 2022, education spending accounted for only 1.83% of the annual budget, but this has seen a substantial increase to 11.6% in 2023. The government is making efforts to improve the situation. Now, it is incumbent upon universities and private sectors to show more enthusiasm in funding youth for educational pursuits and discoveries, promoting not only research but also an entrepreneurial spirit. If such initiatives are effectively regulated in the sector, it will become significantly easier for us to retain our intellectual assets.

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Furthermore, the job market needs to diversify its offerings to attract individuals to work within the country rather than seeking employment abroad. Labour security laws must be enhanced to provide employees with greater job security. Salary ranges, along with fringe benefits, must be improved, and accessibility to individuals from diverse backgrounds should be ensured. A more inclusive workforce would facilitate collaboration and the generation of innovative ideas. Bangladesh boasts a vast population with talent scattered throughout the nation. Proper nurturing and motivation are all that is required to set these talents into motion.

As we continue to progress as a country in the global arena, our human resources become one of our most potent assets. We must create incentives for them to return to their home country and contribute or choose to stay in Bangladesh throughout their careers. Leveraging our human potential is an area where many countries still lag behind, and now is the time for Bangladesh to take a proactive stance to maximize the use of our existing treasures. Why should we allow our talents to benefit organizations abroad when several positions remain unfilled in our own country? It is time to take action, protect the nation, and secure its future prosperity. Our resources are our own, and we must go to great lengths to preserve them for the betterment of future generations and to extend our horizons.

*  Samah Ayana Kabir is a student based is Dhaka