Sharique N Siddiquie
The recent killing of an Indian student Nitin Garg in Australia, once again kicked up the debate about the safety of Indians there. The country Down Under, which till recently was the hot spot for Indian students pursuing higher education abroad, has come under a lot of scrutiny and criticism for the rapid spate of racially motivated attacks.
To add insult to injury, Australian acting Foreign Minister Simon Crean termed the furore in India over the killing as “hysterical”.
The repercussions didn’t take much time and Australia has already seen a 46 percent drop in student visa applications from India. The students are beginning to realize that Australia is unsafe.
With 83,000 to 90,000 Indian students going to Australia every year and comprising 19% of its total foreign student population, it has a huge economic benefit to the country. Besides education, a two billion dollar industry there, is the third biggest money spinner for Australia after iron and coal; so that should give them sufficient reason to worry.
But amidst all the hype and hoopla over the security of our students in Australia, Indian government forgot to analyse the reasons for the migration of such a big chunk of students to a foreign land which is loss to us in terms of brain drain, besides of course valuable foreign exchange.
Reasons for migration
The first and foremost reason is the desire to settle abroad. After 9/11, United States, which was the first choice earlier, tightened its immigration laws. Australia, on the other hand, opened its gates for the students from Asian countries as that brought them not only a lot of money, but cheap manpower also.
The Indian students there mostly come from not so affluent families. They take loans to go to Australia and seek part time jobs to sustain themselves.
Also, the Kangaroo country doesn’t have a dense population like India, so it offers a lot of job opportunities to the migrants, who manage to pick a job of their choice after completing their education.
Another reason is the mindset of Indians being attracted to anything ‘foreign’ and that includes a foreign degree too. Indians perceive people with foreign degrees as ‘learned’! This fascination fuels the desire of students and their parents to have a foreign university degree.
The high level of competition in India also forces many students to migrate. It is a very daunting task to compete at an all-India level to get entrance into IITs, IIMs, Delhi University or other premier institutions. On the other hand, it is fairly easy to compete for admission in lesser known Australian universities. For the sake of statistics, there is no Australian university in the list of top 15 universities of the world.
This simply means that the students, who are not competent enough for premier educational institutions in India, and can afford to spend a few lakh rupees for studying, would opt for Australia as an ideal choice. Since, Australia has no university of the league of Oxford, Cambridge or Harvard, the level of competition comes down naturally. Add to this the sparse Australian population and it becomes very easy for students to get into any institution there.
The Changing Scenario
The point when things started getting bad was when Global recession hit, creating a complex situation. Australia also felt the pinch. The job opportunities diminished and the number of Indians seeking job in the country at very competitive salaries continued to rise. This made the average Australian insecure of Indians, the attacks happened as a repercussion.
It would also not be right to term all the attacks as racially motivated. There are other reasons also. Like any other place in the world, even Australia has criminals, so attacks carried out by them can’t be termed as racially motivated. Indians are physically weaker than the well built Australians, so they become soft targets for criminals.
The difference in the cultures of India and Australia too has contributed to the growing gulf between the two communities.
The recent racial attacks have forced Indian students to rethink about moving out of the country to a place like Australia, which is no longer considered the safe haven that it once was.
The first thing that we should do is to change our mindset. India is fast emerging as a global super power and our home grown educational institutions have a major role to play in it. Indian education system is of a very high level and our examinations are among the toughest to crack. Our system not only provides world class education at a higher level, but also inculcates Indian values and ethics in the students.
We must also understand that living outside the country will not guarantee a better lifestyle or a future. The opportunities to perform and grow professionally exist in India; one just needs the will power and hard work to tap them.
We could also look at better ways of utilizing the money that we are spending in foreign universities. A student can have the same education in India, as a lot of good foreign universities are setting up their off-shore campuses in our country now.
There is stiff competition in the top ranking colleges and universities in India, so the government too is striving to set up more educational institutions with world class facilities to check migration of students. This will be beneficial in two ways. First, by checking migration we will be able to save a lot of money, and secondly, setting up of new educational institutions will create a lot of job opportunities in the education sector.
Students going abroad need to rethink their decision and work harder to compete in the Indian set up for the seats in top educational institutions, rather than taking the escapist shortcut to Australia.
There is no denying the fact that foreign countries offer a lot of opportunities, but India is no longer a laggard in the world, and is in fact taking quick strides to be among the frontline nations. All Indian students need to do is to make use of the opportunities present in the country, which will help them grow professionally in their home land and also help making a better India.