Why So Many Punjabis Go To Canada Instead of Pursuing Higher Education

Posted by Aakanksha Aggarwal in GlobeScope, Society
April 20, 2017

Canada is sometimes called ‘mini India’ and why shouldn’t it be? It is well known that a large number of Indians have been living in Canada for years and they have actually developed a strong sense of community in the country. In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Treadeau remarked that he had more Sikhs in his cabinet than Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. He has also been seen doing the Bhangra, preparing meals in gurdwaras and celebrating other Indian festivals.

Why does he feel the need to do this? Because Indians make up a significant percentage of the Canadian population and he needs to acknowledge them in order to bring about an economic growth that is inclusive and reflects the diversity of his country. Clean roads, great facilities and free medical services paint an attractive picture of the country in the eyes of many.

This has lured Punjabis to Canada for many years. I have many friends who have settled in Canada after graduation and found a well-paying job there. I feel really good on seeing them enjoying themselves in Facebook pictures. However, while Canada may seem like a great place to go to, the reality of the situation may be quite different. During my visit to Punjab last month, I met several school teachers from government, as well as private institutions. I was shocked to hear what they had to say.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

One teacher informed me that eight of her students have left for Canada. But then she added that two of them have got jobs in factories. The third one, who was from a well-to-do family, became a taxi driver. Another one had become a farm labourer. And the remaining four were still trying to find jobs.

Now I do not consider any job as less important but I felt bad on hearing this. These kids, instead of opting for further studies, had passed out of school and gone to Canada only to be employed in jobs requiring minimum skills.

What is really troubling is the fact that without further educational qualifications, these students will never be able to land better jobs. Remaining stuck in such jobs would mean a substandard quality of life as per the Canadian Living Index.

It should be noted that these students belong to families who are financially well-off. Their parents could easily afford them higher education. I wondered then what the rationale was behind sending their kids away to Canada.

Another teacher explained to me the logic behind this.

Ideally, parents expect their kids to apply for engineering or medical colleges after passing out from school. To get admitted in those colleges, students need to pass out from reputed schools with good grades. Good grades require investing in coaching institutes. The whole process costs parents about ₹ 4 lakh a year.

Moreover, these colleges do not necessarily even guarantee a job but still charge exorbitant fees. So instead of spending around ₹ 15 – 16 lakh behind higher education, they invest the same amount in sending their kids to Canada. After all, within 6 months, they are able to find a job there and start earning money. If one child from the family is able to settle in, parents start sending other children too.

But what about living conditions for these kids in a foreign country? Many of them have to stay in small rooms and work minimum wage jobs just to be able to save money.

A large number of well-educated Indians have gained fame in Canada. I actually appreciate this and wish other students too thought of their education before grabbing any job that came their way. For every well-educated Indian in Canada, there is also an Indian employed in a minimum wage job.

Such kids and their parents need proper career guidance so that they may be motivated to do well for themselves anywhere in the world. I am not against Indians settling abroad for better job opportunities but this should not come at the expense of their education.

Image Credit: John McCallum/ Flickr