THE world welcomes international students: quite a few countries roll out the red carpet and green cards (or the equivalent color) for individuals who fit the profile of those that can contribute to the host country’s global competitiveness.
A most direct and immediate benefit, of course, is the billions of dollars in the form of tuition fees that international students bring in, which in turn, create employment, revenue, taxes and consequent social services.
In 2015, international students contributed more than $30.5 billion to the US economy, according to the US Department of Commerce; a record $17.5 billion to the Australian economy for the 12 months to the end of March 2015; $8 to 10 billion to Canada and more billions of tuition fees to educational institutions in New Zealand and the United Kingdom.
So, if you were to choose how to pursue your education, where would you spend your (or your parent’s) funds and what would be your reasons?
Reasons for your choice
Studying traditionally implies a school or class setting. Most students in the Philippines – especially in the tertiary level, are full-time students. There are, of course, those who are working students in the real sense of the word: they work full time and study part-time.
Pursuing further education overseas is the reverse: international students study at least 15 to 20 hours a week and are allowed to work part-time also up to 20 hours a week when school is in session. They can work full time during weekends or whenever school is not in session.
Ordinarily, academic calendars go for eight months and the total off-school session, four months.
Studying overseas is not for everyone. The cost of tuition, or course fee, plus the cost of studies (accommodation, domestic transportation, food, communication (phone and internet), can add a hefty amount.
The range of tuition fees among the five countries with permanent migration programs goes from $14,000 to $35,000 for a one-year post-secondary diploma course. This one- or two-year course is not a post-graduate study e.g., Master or PhD. Instead, these are specialized courses that one can take to enhance an existing bachelor’s degree with the end in view of being competitive at home in the desired industry or be globally competitive anywhere, primarily in the country where the diploma is obtained.
In contrast to other Southeast or Asian countries – where pursuit of higher education is principally aimed at acquiring higher and world-class qualifications and credentials to further one’s career at home or ensure one’s marketability in the global job marketplace – most Filipino students pursue studies abroad to gain access to potential employers.
Such employers are considered as future sponsors for lawful permanent resident status. Hence, the student-to-employment-and-residency pathway is the most attractive option for children of Overseas Filipino Workers, as well as the middle class kids who are not as well connected as their affluent counterparts.
A cursory search on the web shows the most common reasons to study overseas:
I want to study:
1. in a particular part of the world I have always wanted to see.
2. in a city, town, or rural area.
3. where I feel comfortable living in.
4. where I can enjoy cultural, social, and extracurricular experiences and activities.
5. to explore cultures drastically different from my own or experience one that is relatively similar.
6. in a place that offers programs aligned with my personal, academic, and professional goals
7. in a country that allows easy travel to and from other countries.
Criteria for ranking
The following criteria had been selected based on rankings made by US News, a respected magazine worldwide, and interviews with Filipino students applying for visas to pursue academic programs overseas.
Citizenship: cares about human rights, the environment, gender equality; progressive; offers religious freedom; respects property rights; trustworthy; has well-distributed political power
Cultural influence: culturally significant in terms of entertainment; fashionable; happy; has an influential culture; modern; prestigious; trendy
Ability to work while studying: availability of career counselors, guidance on entering the local job market; access to employers who could be potential sponsors for full employment and/or permanent residency; eligibility of spouse to work full time.
Entrepreneurship: connected to the rest of the world, educated population, entrepreneurial, innovative, provides easy access to capital, skilled labor force, technological expertise, transparent business practices, well-developed infrastructure, well-developed legal framework
Best value for tuition and cost of studies: competitive course fees and flexible payment terms, employers allowed to post job openings in school; flexible and reasonable rates of transportation, food and lodging.
Open for business: bureaucratic, cheap manufacturing costs, corrupt, favorable tax environment, transparent government practices.
Pathway to permanent employment and residency: official programs in place allowing change of status onshore; points for completing studies, skills, qualification and language proficiency of spouse/partner; bonus points for having qualified relatives in country of study.
Quality of life: a good job market, affordable, economically stable, family friendly, income equality, politically stable, safe, well-developed public education system, well-developed public health system
A viable and better career pathway after graduation (or even for undergraduates) in the Philippines lies in three areas: IT and information-technology related (software and hardware, web development, animation, programming, network and database programming); call-center related jobs and retirement-driven employment since the Philippines has an official program and agency in place – the Philippine Retirement Authority.
For the rest of the more than 500,000 college graduates and the millions more of undergraduates and post-secondary completers, studying overseas is the most viable way to level the playing field.