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Brain drainers & brain drainees

Haji 2003

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Summary

The factors which allow countries to produce lots of brains may be the very factors that mean such brains will find better opportunities in countries that are better able to pay brains.

Whether the countries producing the brains are able to benefit from their education-positive actions depends on whether the brains who leave for better opportunities consider their success to be a function of their childhood country or their own hard work.

Countries that produce brains need to work hard in order to ensure that people recognise the source of their success.

Brain drainees

Brain drainees are countries that lose qualified people to other countries. Brain drainees typically need to create the brains in the first place and typically there are some conditions that need to be met in order to do this. In order to develop an educated population you need pupils who have enough to eat and drink, feel secure and who are not compelled to work as child labourers. Ideally, they should not have so much wealth that they have too much access to distractions that will keep them away from their studies. 

You need parents who are willing to provide the time and attention needed for children to learn i.e. people who don't feel compelled to work excessive hours in their employment activities either because such work is badly paid or because it is so well paid but competitive that they have to work those hours to keep up with their peers. You need a social system that keeps parents with children rather than in bars.

You need teachers who are qualified, i.e. those who know their subjects well enough that they want to impart knowledge rather than rote learning. And you need education leaders who see their leadership positions as ones that serve society rather than their own pockets.

Countries can create brains for export without the above conditions, but the above represent an ideal, a sort of goldilocks zone. Societies that are neither too dysfunctional or too successful.

Being in the goldilocks zone also means that parents, teachers and children see the value of utilitarian, functional subjects such as maths and engineering. In contrast in more developed societies there may be a tendency to study more values-expressive subjects such as the arts and social sciences.

Brain drainers

These are societies that systematically draw brains from other countries. Typically these societies are rich. People with brains do not move to poor countries unless they are on a World Bank or an NGO contract.

The wealth of these societies means that the children within them have access to distractions, X-boxes do not play themselves, this means that they don't create as many brains as they could. There are other factors at play as well. Parents may find it more economically beneficial to spend time at work rather than with kids and they may also find it more productive to have less kids to begin with. Both factors reduce brains. 

In such societies, there are good teachers, (obviously). But supply may be limited, this is because people who are well-qualified have a lot of other employment opportunities that are typically better paid than education. Teachers could be paid more, but typically these societies find it more effective to reduce tax rates in order to encourage commerce and enterprise and/or spend their budgets on the military which in turn create non-education job opportunities.

The lack of parental support at home, the availability of distractions and other social forces that challenge traditional teacher/pupil relationships can also mean that teaching becomes more demanding and challenging.

Because these societies are rich, however, it remains relatively easy to recruit qualified people in a range of different activities from other countries that are effective at producing them.

Assessments of cause and effect

It may well be that the very factors that allow countries to produce brains are the ones which reduce the opportunities for those brains to exploit the skills that they have developed in their home countries.

Crucial to this issue is the perception of the brains themselves. If they attribute their success to their own labours and that of the brain drainee country that allowed them in, then there will be a net loss to the brain drainee country, it may be less likely to see any future returns to its investment.

If however, the brains feel that they either owe a debt to the drainee country and/or that the drainee country offers opportunities in the long-term they may make a contribution to it.



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Salam!

Sorry I've been on a bit of a blog-stalking spree since I recently re-joined SC! 

But I must say I found this to be a very interesting and observant blog entry Haji - one that also hit close to home! Kids graduating from top schools in my country (traditionally a 'drainee' country) have always been slapped with that label of being responsible for the 'brain drain' in the country that direly needs them. The emphasis on trying to send them on a guilt trip back back to their country if they decide to move can sometimes get really out of hand (coverage and negative publicity in the press etc).

The argument is (at least for private schools) if someone was put on their mettle to get into these schools and pay the exorbitant fee out of our own pockets (or private loans etc) then they have every right to take the brain where they want without feeling guilty. If they were born in a 'drainer' country, they'd probably be able to achieve just the same (or more) without the added guilt if they decided to move elsewhere. 

These drainee countries arguably and potentially keep these brains from reaching their full potential leading to a 'functional drain'. For example, over time many of these countries have developed decent undergraduate programs in STEM specialities but have not been so successful for postgraduate/doctorate programs. So how far are the brains themselves responsible for the drain if they leave the drainee country just to get access to greater academic opportunities? 

Finally, the academic fraternity often argues for the pursuit of a global academia without borders - where institutions are not defined by their geographical location. With that argument in mind, it's interesting to consider that this pattern of moving from one institute to another exists even within 'drainer' countries (so people who complete their medical school at Yale are less likely to also pursue their PhD at Yale in favor of another institution). Here these brains do it for professional growth. If brains from drainee countries do the same with the same goal, they also have to live with the label that they fueled the drain. 

Some more interesting thoughts in these articles from people I know:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1275995/

https://pdfs.semanticscholar.org/e938/e1c2d3d77c1b947cf4f74c061524e361a7ac.pdf

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Sorry for the delayed reply, I got no alert that someone had.

Welcome back. I guessed you were likely to have been hard at work.

While I understand the motivations for brains leaving drainee countries for the drainers, I think the process entrenches the more hierarchical and less meritocratic feature of the drainee countries, because honest achievers don't replace the patronage appointees and the corruption in the system persists.

Of course, there may be some doubt as to whether the honest achievers would have gained senior positions, anyway, had they remained.

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