Express News Service
KOCHI: Heard of a country called Curacao? No? Well, this Lesser Antilles island country in the southern Caribbean Sea and the Dutch Caribbean region, about 65 km north of the Venezuelan coast, has etched a place for itself on the education destination map for Kerala students. Not only Curacao, but many other lesser-known countries are slowly becoming preferred destinations for higher education for students from Kerala. This trend was brought to light when Norka-Roots began its student ID card services following the Covid pandemic in 2020.
According to an official, since the beginning of the registration of students from Kerala studying in various universities in foreign countries, Norka-Roots has received 1,607 applications for student ID cards. The service was started in the aftermath of the pandemic that saw a huge number of students from the state getting stranded in countries all over the world.
As per the latest statistics, Ukraine with 322 students tops the chart as the most favoured country for overseas studies from Kerala, followed by China at 244, and Canada with 174. However, the statistics don’t give the actual numbers.
The numbers are even higher, said Riyas who runs an education consultancy in Kochi. “My consultancy alone has tied up with foreign universities for over 5,000 courses. There are many such education consultancies operating in the state. So one can only guess the number of students who are studying in other countries,” he said. “At present, we submit a list of students with the Indian embassy in that particular country,” he added.
According to a Norka official, the student ID card services started after the pandemic made the landfall. “But once we started getting the data on students studying outside the country, we realised how big their numbers were. Once a data bank on the number of students going abroad for studies is created, we will be able to identify the migration pattern,” he said.
“The data collection has thrown up another interesting fact regarding the student migration pattern. Until now, we believed that students were going only to a fixed number of countries like the UK, the US, Canada, China, Russia or some of the European countries. However, on analysing the course destinations marked in the applications for the ID cards, we have found that Malayali students are studying in countries that have never been thought of as education hubs,” said the Norka official.
Mexico, Iceland, Vietnam and Kyrgyzstan are some other destinations that are attracting Malayali students, as per the data published by Norka. The attraction? Low fee structure and exposure to new cultures. His consultancy has recently got eight students registered for a university in Barbados in the Caribbean Islands. “The other countries that have entered the list this year are Slovenia and Slovakia. Students are applying even to universities in Vietnam,” he added.
“There are several reasons,” said Devanarayanan Namboothiri, an MBBS student at a university in Sumi in Ukraine. He said, “The most important factor is the fees. Compared to the UK, US, Canada and the European countries like France and Germany, the fees in Balkan countries and also the former Soviet Union countries is very low.” Another reason students migrate to other countries for studies is to experience a different culture, he added. “Also, the inability to get a seat even after cracking the entrance examinations in India is another factor,” he said.
Riyas pointed out, Kyrgyzstan has the lowest fee structure for MBBS. “A student can complete their MBBS course in just Rs 20 lakh unlike in the UK, the US or Canada where the cost incurred for a single academic year comes around Rs 38 lakh,” he said. Even Bangladesh is finding a lot of takers, said Riyas. The migration of students to foreign countries is not happening for just MBBS courses. “Nursing, MBA and other courses too are being pursued by students in foreign countries,” said the Norka official.