Ethnicity, Education and the Economics of Brain Drain in Malaysia: Youth Perspectives
This paper seeks to contribute to the debate over Malaysia’s brain drain by critically examining the role of education as well as the changing socio-economic pressures faced by younger generations. It is argued that specific features of Malaysian education and political economy, with their attendant racial fixations, are contributing to the country’s brain drain. Although there is a lack of consensus about the actual economic impact of the brain drain, the Malaysian government continues to dedicate substantial amounts of time, energy and resources into ‘talent’ initiatives with the aim of training and retaining domestic talent, while simultaneously luring highly-skilled foreign migrants to Malaysia and enticing the diaspora to return home. Drawing on interviews and observations from public universities and the burgeoning civil society sector in Malaysia, and supplemented by content analysis of recent films and theatre performances, this paper argues that most government initiatives have been undermined by a lack of foresight attributed largely to the straightjacket of Malaysian electoral politics and perennially ‘sensitive’ communal relations.