Last Wednesday, Anila Banradanike's column for FT focused on Sri Lanka's 'Brain Drain' particularly among urban youth. She complains, rightly, that there are no credible statistics available on how many people go abroad for studies. I agree, all I can say is it's quite a large and growing number. Why do I say this? Let me offer a small anecdote.
After completing up to my O-levels at St.Peter's, a semi-government school in Colombo, I transferred to a so called 'international school' to finish my A-levels. For you non-Sri Lankans, that's a type of schools which offer (mostly) British curriculum of study. My batch consisted of about 70-80 people. Thanks to the weird subject combination I took -- Physics, Economics, Math and Computing -- I took a class with everyone in the batch and now about three years later, I can count only about 6 people in the country. I may have lost touch with a few, but I am quite positive the number remaining in Sri Lanka is less than 15. The rest of them are studying in places like Australia, U.K, U.S., Malaysia and increasingly in China, India and a few medical students in places like Bangladesh and Belarus.
Let's do the math, 15 out of 80 students is roughly about 20% of the batch in my school, that means in general roughly about 80% of most decent international schools (some more, some less) go overseas annually. Add to this the contribution from local schools, we have a significant proportion of some Sri Lanka's best talent going overseas mostly because, higher ed. in this country sucks.
If anyone's serious about stopping (or at least slowing down) the brain drain, they should really think about reforming higher education.