I welcome the readers of the Buenos Aires Times to this new regular segment dealing with international education, a space where we hope to provide news, information of interest and guidance to readers whose aspirations include engaging their lives – or that of their children’s – with international endeavours in higher education.
As Argentina begins the exciting process of re-inserting itself back into the world and global community, so it is incumbent upon us to accompany the country on its journey by engaging with the trends, opportunities and best practices available through education across the world. Through that process our brightest young minds will be able interact, learn, grow and perhaps even later return here to help create a solid future for their families and communities.
In this context it’s worth pointing to the vision of the IIE - the Institute of International Education – which states simply that "we believe that when education transcends borders, it opens minds, enabling people to go beyond building connections to solving problems together. Our vision is a peaceful, equitable world enriched by the international exchange of ideas and greater understanding between people and cultures."
And so, it goes without saying that their mission and goal is threefold: to advance scholarship, build economies and promote access and opportunity.
Evidencing a clear upwards trend, there are presently close to four million mobile international students on the planet. Basically, these are young people who are driven and motivated to temporarily leave behind their home countries, their families, friends and familiar surroundings – including sometimes their own first language - to take advantage of a unique opportunity to educate themselves in a totally different environment, surrounded by a diversity of people, ideas and opportunities, while creating a life-time of networking opportunities that will serve to further enrich their lives and solidify their position in the marketplace.
About one million students every year leave their homes around the globe to travel to the United States to take advantage of its outstanding higher education opportunities. This has been a steadily increasing trend since the late 1960s when the US received about 200,000 international students, rising to the number it hosts today. Recent developments notwithstanding, one can see similar trends in the rise of educational supply in the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain and a few other countries around the world, including South Korea, Japan, Singapore and China. Clearly, there is a globalised thirst among younger generations to take more risks, to explore and to experience things that were previously the domain of adolescent fantasy and parental censorship.
The demand for globalised education has become so strong that it gave rise to a whole new paradigm of how education is marketed. We are witness to the birth of hundreds of recruiting agencies, specialists in poaching the best young talents a country can offer, with the aim of luring them to commit to higher education at institutions hungry for the brightest and most capable. But beware, because we are also witness to the most sophisticated scams and manipulations around admission processes for prestigious institutions. as well as access to scholarships.
Currently, Argentina has a minimal amount of participation in this growing circuit of international opportunities. Approximately 2,000 students a year from our country travel to the United States with the dream of obtaining a bona fide US undergraduate college diploma. Around half that number follows a similar path to Brazil, and the same amount to Spain. Lower indices register for Argentine students enrolling in the United Kingdom, Israel, Australia and Switzerland. In most cases, the highest demand for degrees can be seen in engineering, business and management, mathematics and computer sciences in a descending order order. One in three of all students prefer to study in three locations in US, specifically California, New York or Texas.
Considering the size of Argentina and the volume of its economy, experts tend to agree that this is an inexplicably low number of international students for a nation with such a glorified history in educational innovation and achievements.
Interestingly, some of our smaller neighbours – such as Colombia, Chile, Ecuador and, of course, Brazil – perform better in sending more young undergraduate scholars to earn degrees overseas, students who later return to their countries and help lift it to higher planes, contributing the expertise and knowledge they acquired abroad.
By contrast, and somewhat ironically, Argentina is the country in the continent that receives the highest number of international students – around 4,000 from the United States alone and a total of about 50,000 from countries across the world.
As the IIE’s vision states, an education that transcends borders is worthwhile, it opens minds, creates networks and facilitates better understanding between people and their respective cultures.
In the columns to come we hope to connect you with the world of international education and the exciting things that are happening around it – and tell you how you and the future generation can be part of it.