When smart people take up jobs in another country where they seek permanent residency and eventual citizenship, they are accused of brain drain. People say that such brain drain hurts their native country because of their emigration. Millions of people have moved to other countries to seek greener pastures but that is derogatory because it suggests that people are like cows that seek greener grass somewhere so I will use the term better opportunities.
If we study this phenomenon called the migration of intellectual people who seek better opportunities elsewhere, we see this happening in countries where the education level is high and job opportunities are low. India is a good example where the education level has been steadily rising since its independence in 1947 among all classes of people throughout the country because more educational institutions have been opened than in its pre independence period. Then the education was limited to the elite and to a few deserving bright people who were given the scholarships to study. The rich people sent their children aboard especially to the United Kingdom where they studied law, medicine or other subjects that England excelled in.
Gandhi, Bose, Nehru and many others went to England for their education but their parents could afford it. Also there were few such educational institutions in British India at that time but that started to change when the British established the University of Kolkata, the Campbell medical college and law schools there. The Presidency college, Loreto and other schools were set up that were excellent and educated hundreds of thousands of Indians before the independence but the British set up these colleges to serve their immense need to educate and train Indians who would then serve the British in various junior capacities all over their vast empire.
The British were unable to fill all the posts with their own people .Also the Indians were willing to work for lower wages than their British counterparts so the British helped spread the education in India to serve their need.
My father who was a gold medalist in high school got a job at a very young age and served as an accountant under the British government and was posted all over India received the coveted silver medal from the British King George V for his service to the empire. This medal was minted in England and was inscribed with my father’s name on the rim. I proudly display his medal here in my home in the Philippines.
But most Indians remained uneducated during the British period. The established Universities and colleges were few and could only accommodate a few students. This would change later after the independence but pre independence education level was low to say the least. Those who were employed by the British were paid lower wages than their counterparts in England for the same job but people were happy to get a job and put up with the hardship of frequent transfer from one part of the vast country to another part or even to other countries that were ruled by the British.
It was a period of easy travel with few restrictions. No visas were required for anyone to travel anywhere within the British empire on which the Sun never set as they said in those days. There were no restrictions on what one could buy in London and bring it to India because there were no custom duties within the empire or was kept at a bare minimum. Those who could afford could buy any thing in England and get it delivered to their door. My father bought English cigarettes called Abdalla that came in fancy tin cans but many rich Indians bought Morris cars or British made horse carriages called Broughams. The ships from England delivered them to Kolkata directly.
The education was the responsibility of a few traditional schools run by the Brahmins called “Tolas” where the pupils were taught mathematics, astrology, logic, religious texts like Vedas, Upanishads etc and Sanskrit because it was essential to learn it to understand all the old texts. English was not taught as a subject so no one learned anything about western science and philosophy or other subjects.
The British brought India into the modern world by introducing them to the study of European science, law, medicine and philosophy and other various subjects, in short to the British education system that was excellent and of high standard. They brought excellent teachers to teach at these universities and colleges and brought books and other teaching materials from England to fill the shelves of the libraries.
They built excellent public libraries all over India including in my home town so I place a photo of it here. Indians were eager for the knowledge of the western science and medicine so many were educated this way who became in their turn noted scientists, lawyers and medical doctors. Still the education specially higher education remained limited to a few people.
This however , changed after the independence when the education of the masses was given the priority by the government that invested in education by establishing many schools, colleges and universities all over the country. The Indian Institute of technology, Indian institute of medical sciences, agricultural universities, technical colleges, engineering colleges, veterinary colleges, Tata institute of fundamental research etc. were established but emphasis was given to primary education so thousands of elementary and high schools were established where boys and girls were admitted. The education of girls was encouraged in all sciences and all fields for the first time with active support of the government with financial aid, free school lunch and other incentives so the education level of the vast population started to rise exponentially and has continued to this day.
The reason I write about India is because I know its history and its educational system and because I am a product of that system. Our agricultural college was the first such college in India established by an American missionary in 1910 but now there are numerous agricultural colleges and universities in the country.
The British should be given credit for bringing to India the modern western method of education that opened up the vast world of knowledge to the students but they had to learn English first. It should not surprise anyone that very few Indians spoke English and those who managed it somehow spoke a kind of pidgin so the British established the English education system and set up schools like St.Joseph college, St.Mary’s college, Boys high school, Girls high school, St.Anthony school etc. in many cities where children were taught in British English.
This tradition still continues in those schools that are called English medium schools where children become fluent in the language. I had earlier mentioned Loreto but all these institutions were run by the religious people namely Anglicans who introduced Indians to Christianity. The British also built many Anglican churches throughout the country.
These church affiliated schools set up an excellent standard of education that are still valued by the Indians and respected. The post independence India saw an explosion of new educational institutions in the country because the private business people were allowed to set up schools and colleges as a business enterprise so the number of such schools and colleges have skyrocketed.
What it means is that the country now produces many more educated people than it can find jobs for so these newly minted graduates seek jobs where they can find them. Often it means going overseas where they are needed and where they get a salary that they can never hope to earn in India. This is when the term “Brain Drain” was coined. People say that these smart people are leaving the country in droves and using their talent to develop other countries instead of the motherland.
Now I will explain why this argument sounds so hollow in this modern age of internet and interconnected world through instant communication.
It is true that brilliant people who are highly educated and skilled in their fields also have high ambitions .Who can blame them? What is the purpose of education if not to earn decent wages for a decent living? This is as true in India as it is anywhere else. Education is not a luxury for a few but rather a necessity to learn the skills needed to cope with the modern world.
There is a shortage of specific skills in computer science, medical technology and engineering, healthcare, law and accounting just to name a few. So the graduates in these fields get many opportunities outside their countries and get good jobs. So they move and set up a new life somewhere else, perhaps marry there and become citizens. There is nothing wrong in it although many who have settled in the USA or UK or Australia feel nostalgic for the country they left behind and try to keep in touch. This nostalgia however, quickly fades as the next generation born in the United States or UK does not feel the same way as their parents and become more assimilated into their country.
The internet revolution is unprecedented in the human history. It has brought the whole world together like never before. Gone is the old fashioned way of communication through telegraphs, telegrams, telex, fax and such. Now it is instant e mail and it is free. You can skype anyone in the world and see him and talk to him for free. You can send messages from your smart phone or see a person on skype in it all wirelessly and instantly. You can send digital photos that you take with your smart phone or with your digital camera and instantly send it to any part of the world wirelessly.
Sure people abuse this technology as is evident from millions of junk photos, selfies and files sent daily through facebook or other social media but the technology is here that is put to good use by many who can now apply for jobs online and get interviewed through skype. This opens up the job market worldwide for qualified people.
This is the revolution I am talking about. You can fill up an application form for jobs anywhere in the world on line and get a response in a short time. Some employers search the data base of Linkedin that has millions of talented people registered there to find the person they are looking for. You do not have to have a computer or a smart phone to do that because there are thousands of internet centers where you can use their computers for a small fee.
Another field that has opened up in a very big way is the transcription business. Now someone in India with a computer can receive the legal or medical reports from another country that he helps transcribe and send back. He gets paid for such services directly to his account.
Then there are the call centers that operate in many countries where people handle business by phone or through internet and render a service for which they get paid directly. They never have to leave their country to work abroad and earn a decent living. There is translation or editing services that are done through the internet which employs many people in many countries.
There are distant learning centers that teach through the internet to students in remote parts of the world the subject of their choice. There are doctors who give free diagnosis of a disease and its treatment by looking at the medical reports, x rays, ultrasound pictures of the patient in remote part of the world through the internet so the internet has brought people closer this way like never before. I will not write about the internet dating services but that too are growing like crazy and many people find their life partners this way.
We can say what we want about the brain drain but the fact remains that today it is no longer considered shameful to leave your country and go and work in another country if that country gives you the opportunity to do so and prosper. Professional people seek professional satisfaction in their jobs so if a doctor is given a chance to work in a modern lab in the US or UK to develop a cure for a disease, he takes it and considers it a fulfillment of his dream of becoming a noted scientist. Often his home country can not provide him with such opportunity so he goes where he is appreciated. I see nothing wrong in it . It is quite normal and natural for people to have ambition and seek better opportunities.
Now in some countries they have progressed to the extent that their citizens living abroad decide to go back .This is happening in China and India although their numbers are few.
I am sure as nations make more progress and develop to create more employment for their educated people, more will decide to stay and work there. I must mention here that India still has a program to employ returning scientists for a period of two years until they can find a more suitable job somewhere. I know this because I was offered jobs twice under this program in India that unfortunately I could not accept due to personal reasons but it is a big help to those who want to return.
The world is making progress not because of brain drain but because the new talents are migrating and creating new opportunities for them and others. The flow of money sent home by such people is staggering in amount and keeps many economies in many countries afloat that in return creates more jobs for the locals. Just imagine how many millions of new homes are being built by them giving jobs to millions of masons, carpenters and others who are not so fortunate.
Just imagine how many small businesses are being set up with such money that are employing so many people in their own country. It is a fact that one person who has a good job supports at least ten people in the service sector plus his family so no matter where they are, they are helping folks back home. This is not brain drain. This is a boon.