Monday, June 15, 2009

The Economics of Abusing Foreign Students in Australia

(This entry was originally published in March 2009 and it is based on the context of that time. It got deleted for technical problem and I am again posting it now.)

Getting a foreign degree, especially from well known universities in UK, USA, or Australia is like a dream for many students in India. A degree from a foreign university not only elevates ones’ social status but also ensures good jobs with high salary. For this reason, every year hundreds and thousands of students from India go abroad. Since, English is the second language in India, most of the students opt for English speaking countries like UK, USA, New Zealand, and Australia for higher studies. Unfortunately, many of these students become victims of racial abuse and muggings, theft and car jacking.

In the past six months, 500 incidents of attack on Indian students were reported to the police all over Australia. It has become a major concern for the Indian high commission in Canberra. Economic downturn, job loss and unemployment caused the rise of such incidents.

On February 25, 2009, a local newspaper of New Zealand reported that Indian students became targets of racial abuse in the country’s southernmost city of Invercargill. A group of twenty five Indian students came to study at the Southern Institute of Technology in Invercargill. Five of the students became targets of racial abuse by the local people. Four Sikh students were called terrorists by local youngsters. Since the Sikhs wear turbans, people confused them with Arabs and Muslims. A victim named Jasdeep Singh cut his hairs and stopped wearing turban in fear of his safety. Another victim, Jasmail Singh, said that the abusers were men and women in their early 20s. The five students experience 16 incidents of racial abuse. Local police were informed of the attacks.

These are two recent news reports I found on the net and there are many such news. Many Indian students who go to abroad face terrible incidents and in many cases they die.

Like it or not: We bring money for you

Foreign students are a major source of income for countries like Australia, UK, USA, and New Zealand. Here are some interesting facts about the education industry of Australia:

  • According to Professor Glenn Withers, Chief Executive of Universities Australia, the education sector generated $15.5 billion in 2008. Now, it has become Australia’s “third largest export industry” after coal and iron ore. Students of India, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia make up the majority of the overseas student population in Australia. Hospitality, management and commerce courses are the most popular among these students.
  • In the face of worldwide recession, the government of Australia became worried of a slowdown in student admission in Australian universities and colleges. So, the government launched a (US) $2.3million dollar campaign to attract more students from India, China, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Renowned Australian academics took part in various events of the campaign. As part of the campaign, the government also provided strategic advice to higher education providers. The government took steps to train education agents. India is one of the prime targets of the campaign.
  • On March 18, 2009, Australian government released its latest foreign student enrolment figure which revealed that Chinese students make up one fourth of the total enrolment and India one fifth.
  • In the first eleven months of 2008, 95,000 Indian students took admission in various Australian universities. After Chinese students, Indian students form the second largest student population in Australia. Since 2002, the number of Indian students enrolling into Australian universities went up to an average annual rate of around 41%.
  • In January 2009, overall international enrolments in Australia jumped by 21% and a total of 298,462 full-free international students enrolled in various Australian vocational training centers and universities in the beginning of 2009.

Australian government takes security measures:

For the security of the overseas students, government of the state of Victoria established an overseas student experience taskforce that would work on various issues of foreign students including their safety. Gemma Buxton, media adviser to Jacinta Allan, Minister of Skills and Work-force participation said that the data accumulated through the taskforce will be used for the development of an international education strategy that would be released in later 2009. Gemma Buxton also said that international students are highly valued members of their community and they make a major contribution to our economy. Already, Melbourne police have taken steps to warn Indian students to moderate their social behaviors. Upon arrival, Indian students are received by government officials.

Economic recession reverses brain drain:

For many years, USA remained the most popular destination for higher education among Indian students. It is known as the “land of great opportunity.” Since 2001, number of Indian students going to USA rose sharply and they formed the largest foreign student population in various American universities. According to the latest figure released by the US Embassy in New Delhi, Indian students currently accounts for nearly 15% of all international students. Unfortunately, the economic crisis changed everything. Now, instead of going to USA, Indian students are getting admitted into various domestic educational institutions. The “American Dream” does not lure them anymore and this loss became India’s gain. Previously, some of the most talented students of the country would go abroad. Now, the economic recession changed their mindsets and “brain drain” turned into “brain gain” for India.

Vivek Wadhwa, a US-based Indian academic, wrote a paper on the “brain drain and gain” issue. He said that brain gain has already started. Wadhwa predicted that about 100,000 skilled Indians would return to India from US in the next five years.

India is currently, the third-largest economy of Asia. Before recession, the country observed an average growth of 8.6% for the last four years. It is still considered as one of the emerging markets of the world with huge potentials, hence, many businesses will start and many new jobs will be created in the coming years. More over, the cost of living in India is very low and the country has all the modern facilities including big shopping malls, multiplexes, etc.

Abuse in India:

Interestingly, Indian students not only become victims of abuse in abroad but in India as well. “Ragging” is very popular and widespread in almost all the educational institutions in India. Recently, a medical student named Aman Kachroo lost his life because of ragging. Every year, many such death incidents caused by ragging come to the Indian news papers- young boy beaten to death, a boy being beaten incessantly with belt and slapped, young girl made to sit naked in freezing water all day, freshers in university hostels are forced to dance naked. “Ragging” is known to be harmless funny rituals observed by seniors in educational institutions in India but the reality is that these funny rituals very often takes the form of abuse and causes mental breakdown among students. In 2005, an NIT student named Amit Sahay committed suicide by throwing himself in front of a train in Jalandhar. In his suicide note, he held his seniors responsible for his death.

Be it India, be it abroad, you see that abuse takes place every where. Only implementing strict laws and introducing harsher punishments will not help to solve this problem. The most important thing is people should change their attitude especially the young people. They should know that judging a person from his look or name or color is not a good thing and everything within a limit is good. I believe that government of these countries should work jointly with various private organizations to raise awareness among people and introduce various awareness raising programs to change their behavior and way of thinking.

Related articles:

The Economic Times(1)

The Economic Times(2)

The Tribune

The Times of India (1)

The Times of India (2)


The Sydney Morning Herald

1 comment:

  1. Thank you very much for this information.
    Good post thanks for sharing.
    I like this site ;)