Many youths and their families tend to believe educational opportunity abroad will automatically ensure amazing future. That’s a flawed notion
Last week a scandal erupted in the US involving some wealthy, predominantly white American families buying, some illicitly and others in legally but ethically dubious ways, their children’s tickets to some of the best universities in the country. At the end of February similar incident came to light in Nepal, this time involving hundreds of Nepali students living in Australia who ended up getting enrolled in an educational program not fully accredited and certified. These incidents not only underline a broken admission system in higher education but also highlight the ways families decide to send their children overseas for studies.
While the American case involved real wealthy families gaming the system, Nepali students, whose middle class families had made big sacrifices to send them overseas, were instead induced to choose careers offering them their best shots at obtaining a permanent residency. Such incidents call for better regulations, including the case for better ethical business practices among consultancies everywhere, particularly in Nepal.
There is no doubt that few “bad apples” are acting unscrupulously to maximize their profits and vast majority of educational consultancies in Nepal are legitimately and legally operating, offering an important support to families keen to send their children abroad for better educational opportunities. Mostly, Nepali families know well which kind of services they are buying from consultancies. Families and their children have multiple sources to check and find out more about the rankings, fees and standards of what is being offered by the universities in question.
Yet, considering the amount of money and all the consequences implied, it is high time for reconsidering the role of families and their decision making process leading or not to a decision of sending their children to study abroad.
Watch out well
When a youth decides to further her studies, several dynamics come into play. They include unique mix of factors and elements, some of them unpredictable. There are brilliant youths who have very clear educational goals and know exactly what they want to do professionally in the future and why they want to go overseas. Some of them do succeed in getting enrolled and complete their education in good colleges while others manage to get admitted but somehow end up in a strange situation of shifting their subjects and sometimes also college just to be able to have a better shot at a residency visa. In other cases, smart youths go overseas even though they are cognizant of all the hardships and the consequences of this choice. They avoid the simpler route of studying in Nepal.
Those deciding to go overseas, after a very time consuming review of universities rankings, might apply directly on their own or through local consultancies or other means. Here lies the importance of families getting involved in the entire process.
Many families genuinely want the best for their children and therefore are ready to invest huge amount of money for it. Others are more driven by societal pressure and quest of prestige or greed of attaining or retaining status by sending their children abroad. Some families take the decision to break a cycle of marginalization and hardships. We need a radical shift in the way families think and act about sending their children abroad for higher studies.
The experience of one of the volunteers in my office can be instructive. After changing his mind several times, he decided to pursue Master’s degree in Nepal. Now he is flourishing and pursuing his interests with full self-confidence. He might do exceptional things in Nepal without a foreign education. He might travel extensively because of his skills, intelligence, positive attitudes and hard work and because of Nepali degree.
It is true that a good higher secondary education overseas can equip you in much better ways to find and deal with job opportunities in the future but it is also true that a youth can thrive and succeed by attending a local public college in Nepal. But many youths and their families tend to believe educational opportunity abroad will automatically, almost by default, ensure an amazing future. That’s a flawed notion.
There is nothing like an unconditionally pre-determined educational and professional journey for a youth. There are multiple pathways a youth can take to discover her interests and passions. What truly makes the difference at later stage is how she will deliberately be focused, work hard, and embrace positive values, unafraid of the inevitable setbacks that will come with life.
An Ivy League education will offer you a tremendous boost in your future job prospects but what also counts are the grit and determination of succeeding. Perhaps, what will make the difference is the amount of efforts to give the best of what you can. But in Nepal, there is a strong appetite for higher secondary education abroad.
In this context, local consultancies should act less as agents and more as true life coach and advisor to help local students and support their families in understanding all the dynamics and consequences of investment for abroad studies. Youths might take a gap year to gain more experience and enhance their understanding of which option—studying abroad or in Nepal—is more appropriate for them. The best hopes and prospects for youths are less determined by where they study but more by their characters, personal leadership and integrity.
The author is Co-Founder of ENGAGE, an NGO partnering with youths living with disabilities