Trend of students going abroad continues despite increased investment in education

Published On: July 23, 2023 04:30 PM NPT By: Ruby Rauniyar

KATHMANDU, July 23: In the past 12 years, the government has invested Rs 1.4 trillion in the education sector, but it has failed to assure and sustain students in domestic education. Every year, hundreds of students go abroad for higher education after passing Grade 12. A total of 416,364 students have taken NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the fiscal year 2065/66 BS to 2077/78 BS to pursue higher education abroad. Similarly, the number of students who took NOC in the year 2078/79 BS and 2079/80 BS is 227,780.

The government has been increasing the annual budget since 2069 BS under the ‘Education for All’ program, especially with the aim of increasing access to school education for everyone. The government has made education up to Grade 8 i.e. basic level, compulsory and free and secondary level education (Grades 9 to 12) free of cost. Under free education, there is a legal provision that school-level children get textbooks, snacks and educational materials for free while their tuition fees, examination fees, etc are waived. All the provinces have taken responsibility for covering the salaries of public school teachers. But why do students opt to go abroad for further studies? Experts say that this is one of the biggest challenges at present.

According to educationist Bidhya Nath Koirala, the main reason why students prefer to pursue higher education abroad after completing Grade 12 education is the better employment opportunity, despite the increase in annual budget for education in Nepal. Up to the fiscal year 2074/75 BS, the budget allocated for education was Rs 99 billion, but from the year 2075/76 BS, it started to exceed. In order to improve the quality of education, the government allocated a budget of Rs 134 billion to education from the year 2075/76 BS. But in the year 2074/75 BS and 2075/76 BS, the maximum number of students took NOC. In other words, 58,758 took NOC in 2074/75 BS and 63,259 in 2075/76 BS. Looking at the data of the last 13 years, the highest numbers of NOCs have been taken in these two years.

According to Basu Dev Wasti, under-secretary of the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology and the Head of NOC Branch under the Ministry of Education, in the 13 years from 2065/66 BS to 2077/78 BS, a total of 416,300 students took NOC from the Ministry for higher education studies in around 103 countries. But in the current situation, more than 100,000 students take NOC in a year, said Wasti. He said that 80 percent of the students who get NOC are after passing class 12. In the year 2076/77 BS, a total of 34,094 have taken NOC according to the data of the Ministry of Education. Similarly, in the year 2077/78 BS, a total of 27, 978 took NOCs.

According to the head of NOC Branch, Wasti, there is a growing trend of educational consultancy agencies in Nepal. Some have even opened colleges and consultancies abroad. Although the government has made education up to the school level completely free, some argue that students going abroad for studies do not serve the interests of the country.

In the fiscal year 2078/79 BS, 117, 563 students took NOCs, while in the year 2079/80 BS, 110,217 people took NOCs for a total of 70 different countries, according to the data of the Ministry of Education.

According to Education Expert Koirala, even though the government has provided infrastructure such as electricity, roads and water to the villages, it has not been able to create opportunities. So, the people have been shifting to urban areas from rural areas and again flying abroad from urban areas to seek better employment opportunities.  

“One gets a degree in the country but does not get a job. The question is; is there a problem in education or employment? It is not education that produces the unemployed, but the country has failed to provide employment, which is a big problem," he said. “Even after investing Rs 1.5 trillion in 13 years, the government could not sustain the students in the country. Students who have passed Grade 12 and university students want to go abroad, because even the government has not been able to provide and create job opportunities for them,” said Koirala.

“The students are forced to go abroad after not getting the quality of education they deserve. “Despite imparting skill-based/technical education, the main reason why the number of students in technical education is declining everywhere is the lack of employment opportunities in the country," said educationist Koirala. “There was a failure in showing employment opportunities in the country by coordinating with the Planning Commission and industrial entrepreneurs to study which industries require what level of manpower. Unless the youth is given opportunities in the country, no matter how much the state increases investment in free and compulsory education, the investment in education will not be successful. It is like pouring water on sand,” he added.

"Only 80 percent of the students who come to our branch for NOC have completed Grade 12. Only a few have completed their bachelor's degrees," said Head Wasti. "Despite investing billions worth rupees in the education sector, the challenge lies in retaining those well-prepared and qualified young students who could contribute to the overall development of the country. Now, it's time for policymakers to rethink how to connect education with employment and opportunities to move forward," he stated.

According to Sunil Babu Shrestha, a former member of the National Planning Commission (NPC) and the former vice-chancellor of the Nepal Academy of Science and Technology, Nepal's education aims to produce manpower who can compete in the global market, but young students are finding it difficult to stay in their country because the government has not been able to guarantee students and parents that there will be better prospects for their future career in the country.

“The problem is not in our education, the problem is in the plans made by the government. Planned development for proper human resource management is not clear,” stated Shrestha. He further added, “There is no specific data with industrial entrepreneurs, private sectors and government about how much manpower is needed in which sector.” He said that due to this, the government has failed to convince parents and students about opportunities in the country.

“Our students are able to compete in the global market right from the school level. That is why they are sold in the world market. There is no doubt about that. But the government has failed to convince them that there is an opportunity to stay in their own country,” said former Vice-Chancellor Shrestha.

Shrestha further stated that he has been raising voice over this concern since he was a member of NPC. In the 16th Five Year Plan of NPC, discussions have been made to make a plan about clear human resource management along with statistics,'' he said. "The government can produce high-level manpower only if manpower is produced and managed based on accurate data," mentioned Shrestha.


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