Indian Students Abroad : Their Significance and Issues – UPSC GS2

Facts about Indian students abroad:
  • India has a history of students traveling abroad for higher education and major personalities who went abroad include Mahatma Gandhi, B.R. Ambedkar, Jawaharlal Nehru, Amartya Sen and Manmohan Singh.
  • As estimated before the COVID pandemic, about 7,50,000 Indian students were studying abroad, spending around $24 billion in foreign economies, which accounts for 1% of India’s GDP.
  • The number is said to increase to about 1.8 million by 2024 and students are likely to spend $80 billion.
  • India is the second largest source of international students after China.
  • The reasons for such a high number of students going abroad include the gap in India’s supply of quality education against the demand.
Benefits of having large number of Indian students abroad:
  • Sushma Swaraj referred to Indians abroad as “brand ambassadors of India”.
  • The Prime Ministers of India and UK called Indians in the U.K. as the “living bridge” between the countries.
  • The large base of Indian students abroad have various benefits to India in the form of: (#Diagram)
    • Soft power
    • Knowledge transfer
    • Transfer of Indian culture
    • Remittances they send back to India
Recent events that troubled Indian students abroad:
  • Ukraine crisis endangering 18000 Indian Medical students.
  • Around 2,000 students in Canada got affected as their colleges were abruptly closed.
  • A few years ago many ‘bogus’ colleges in the U.K. shut down abruptly, impacting them.
  • During the pandemic, Australia shut its borders to many Indian students who had enrolled to study in the country.
  • Even in the U.K. people were seen stranded without access to food and accommodation as they lost their economic means.
What government should do?
  • The Indian government must proactively build a safety net for international students.
  • International arrangements that require host countries to ensure the welfare of students during a crisis should be given the highest priority.
  • The trade and other agreements that India signs should also negotiate for the inclusion of safety of these students.
  • A mandatory student insurance scheme be formulated to ensure the interests of the students.
  • Students take expensive loans from institutional and non-institutional sources to finance their education and these institutions should be regulated.
As India celebrates the achievements of Indians abroad, we should also take up the responsibility of safeguarding and ensuring their welfare.
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