June 13, 2005


It is really hard for the average Bangladeshis to afford higher education abroad. In homeland they get subsidized education from public universities. The numerous private universities are sprouting up all over the country to accommodate the growing number of students. Although they are a bit steep priced but in quality they are not far behind from world standard and the investment required is much less than foreign education.

In my view, there are two types of Bangladeshi students going for higher education in mostly western countries like the US, UK, Cyprus & Australia. The brilliant students, who easily can get a scholarship from a university, can afford subsidized study abroad with the help of some part time job to meet the living expenses. Many of them achieve academic feats and migrate to a prosperous country with a good job. You can call it brain-drain, but some say it is brain-saving because they might have ended up in a Bangladeshi organization laden with bureaucracy and corruption. They can carry on elsewhere using their brain to its full potential and still contribute to their motherland. This is a harsh view but I am saving the debate for another time.

The second types are the people whom we need to analyze most. Some Bangladeshis go to study abroad as a last resort. They are thrown out of competition for the good institutes because they have a weaker educational background and are not able to work hard. So they have no choice other than to try something different if they want to have a good life like their peers who will have a good government job or a lucrative job in a multinational. Some use education as a mean of human trafficking to a foreign land. Some sell their family belongings just to enter in a prosperous country. But their life abroad becomes as hard as they could ever imagine once they get there. For the students from not so affluent families more than one part time job is required to meet the living expenses. In Bangladesh they usually live in a joint family where the household works are shared by family members and less-expensive maids. But in abroad you have to do everything alone-from earning to cooking, washing and studying if you want to complete the costly education. Most of these types give up by never completing the education and try to assimilate to that country embracing the hard life or go back.

For the students from affluent families, who do not have to take the pressure of part time jobs, the real life begins after their graduation. One of my relatives got an engineering higher degree from UK as his family could afford his education for eight long years. Soon he become frustrated from the discriminations he faced in the job market there because he is an Asian. He came back and got a job in the lucrative Bangladesh Telecom sector and is progressing well. Many of his colleagues completed their education in Bangladesh. So I wonder, for a not so affluent family would this investment be worthwhile?

In a letter published in the daily New Age, a Bangladeshi expatriate in Australia writes about the plights of the Bangladeshi students there who could create a host of opportunities at their own country. Some excerpts:

"There is no doubt the opportunities in the West are considerable. But the world's centre of gravity is fast moving. Pundits are already predicting this will be an "Asian century" on the backs of China and India.

I am struck by the number of people who return to Bangladesh from lives in the West, or elsewhere, and then eke out creative, fruitful existences living in Bangladesh. There are still aspects of the West they will still miss, but the prospect of making significant contributions to their homeland wins out.

The knowledge gained from spending even a short time in the West, especially through employment, can be the inspiration for hundreds of ideas when returning to Bangladesh.

This came true for India as many Indian expatriates are coming back to be a part of the country's economic boom. In Bangladesh progress is happening but not at that pace. Right now apart from the leading sectors like Telecom, IT and the textile industry, the good paymasters are the NGOs, which might not be able to lure the expatriates with limited openings. To start some kind of economic revolution, Bangladesh needs the help of the expatriates abroad who can invest their ideas, capital and expertise in more and more sectors and entrepreneurships. Good or bad at least they will feel at home and be close to their kiths and kin.


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