Is pouring more money into a bachelor's degree correct? What about masters and doctorates?

  • By chagy5
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  • 2024-03-15
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Is pouring more money into a bachelor's degree correct? What about masters and doctorates?

It is said that “The investment in education returns in the most effective way. However, it will give such results if it is done only in the most fair and on-point way. But if it is not, irreparable losses for decades are expected. This cannot be measured in monetary terms alone.” Australia, Germany, the United States of America, and the United Kingdom, which are globally recognized as having the best education systems and teaching methods, pay close attention to the efficient investment in education. In particular, they strictly adhere to the idea that the funds and money allocated to the education sector should be used in the most effective and optimal ways.

On the other hand, our country has been taking a frivolous and squandering approach as to whether it is following a policy which is opposite from the ones in those countries with higher education access. Even now, all resources and money are spent on useless things and are wasted. Let's clarify this with one example. Since 1997, in order to meet the demands of the labor market and prepare skilled and professional individuals, Mongolia has started to train youths in foreign universities with scholarships for bachelor, master’s and doctoral degrees. Between 1997 and 2016, approximately 4,972 students received a fund of 185.7 billion MNT, and in 2016-2022, 968 students received 33.2 billion MNT and scholarships.

About 40-50 percent of the young people who studied abroad with this opportunity received bachelor's degree scholarships. It means that children who have just finished their high schools were given the opportunity to study in a foreign country. Looking at this, it is clear that Mongolia has put a lot of “care” and effort into training citizens with a bachelor's degree which is the next level of secondary education. However, researchers and experts still mention that it is not a valuable and optimal investment for a developing country like Mongolia, which does not have a stable education system and has weak economic potential. Even developed countries which have a great education system make it their main policy to support and grant scholarships to master's and doctoral students, rather than looking after students studying the bachelor's degree. Paying attention to higher education is truly considered a valuable investment in the education sector of a country.


Why is it not effective?


 First of all, the bachelor's degree is considered to be of little direct importance and impact to the society, economy, and labor market, as it is the initial course for obtaining a higher education degree. Second, it is said to be the most unstable and uncertain period because the students' learning style and professional direction are not fully established. On the contrary, the goals of candidates for master's and doctoral degrees are more obvious, and their position and influence in society is wider. Therefore, the developed countries prefer to provide scholarships to the participants of advanced training and programs, such as master’s and doctoral degrees.

The researcher, B.Ganjiguur, who has recently researched the issue of accessible and equal education said, “Not everyone who studies abroad can become a valuable expert. It depends on many factors, such as the student's activity, adaptability, self-reliance, effort, and personal organization, rather than the quality of the school or the university. This ability is weak and underdeveloped for the students who are new or undergraduate. In the first four years of being a student, they take general academic courses, learn self-reliance, and decide what to do next and who they will be in the future.” “For those who are studying abroad, they have to put in twice as much effort as students studying in their home countries. Some students getting education abroad give up and come back. There is also a possibility to lose track of time and lag behind their peers if they come back not finishing the university. We should not try too hard to provide scholarships for the students grabbing the bachelor's degree, since it is more productive and efficient to educate them in their own country initially” says B.Ganjiguur. 

Moreover, the associate professor of the Department of Mathematics in the School of Science of the National University of Mongolia, Dr. J.Davaadulam also expressed her opinion on the same issue. The professor said, “Providing scholarships is something that has to be there, but it is not necessary for bachelor's studies. Considering that the students study for four or more years, the cost per student is high. In most of the cases, they did not even decide what and who they want to be at this period of time. There is a high possibility that they will not study successfully or come back to their hometown right after starting to study. Moreover, it is able to educate and prepare young people in Mongolia for the bachelor's degree. Therefore, the support for the bachelor’s degrees is needed urgently”.

She then continued, “There are often various foreign scholarships available for the doctorate degree candidates and they can find them on their own, therefore there is no need to spend money from the budget. But the main focus should be on master's scholarships. Fewer years of study, so the fees are lower for the master’s study. Young people with a bachelor's degree are enrolled, so they have a certain preparedness and goals set in front of them. They will get more detailed knowledge out of this.” 

Unfortunately, Mongolia continues to support, and spend more money on undergraduate scholarship programs. As determined by international organizations, the procedure for granting loans and grants from the Education Loan Fund is currently in effect to students who have received a scholarship for 50 percent or more for the tuition fees and the right to study in a university's bachelor's program that is in the top 50 of the current year. In addition to this, children who won medals at international Olympiads and got the highest scores in the entrance exam have been given a presidential scholarship to study abroad in a bachelor's degree. As part of that, more than 300 students who are newly graduated from the highschool are selected every year from 2021, and those who meet the criteria are given a chance to study abroad. Currently, more than 500 students are studying abroad through this initiative. Providing this kind of scholarship, which is supposed to increase Mongolian youth's ability to compete in the world, has many problems, such as unequal opportunities, different chances for young people, illegal selection, and violation of rules and regulations. Most importantly, it has come to be criticized as an example of wasteful investment that puts a heavy burden on the state budget and wastes taxpayers' money. There is data that indicates 1.4 billion MNT was spent in one year for the scholarship of bachelor degree students named after the president of Mongolia.

Economists such as the former teacher of the National University of Mongolia and a researcher of the NRC of Mongolia, B.Enkhbat pointed out several times by providing clear evidence, facts and research that it is not equal to give some students of the “President’s Scholar-2100” Scholarship Program and the opportunity to study at the university (Columbia University in the City of New York) with an annual scholarship of more than 140,000 USD, while others receive support of less than 1,000 USD even though they are also the candidate of the exact same program. The researcher mentioned that “It is too reckless and absurd for an economically weak country like Mongolia to allocate funds equivalent to a year's salary of more than 400 people to tuition fees for a single student, especially for the undergraduate students.” However, those words did not reach the place they should have reached and the owners they should have heard.

The students who got the “President’s Scholar-2100” scholarship talked about the problems of misunderstanding caused by the implementation of the scholarship program, when they sent children who had just graduated from the high school and who had never walked across the border without giving them clear information and orientation. It is difficult to ask for responsibility if such problems occur. It is also complicated to say how many of them who received scholarships from the state will successfully graduate from the university, how many of them will work in the field related to their profession and contribute to the development of Mongolia. It is impossible to calculate and predict. Perhaps, with master's and doctoral students, the issue would be on a different level, since the majority of them have set the specific goal to achieve, not like bachelor’s students. 

Furthermore, O.Siilegmaa, who worked as a senior specialist in the Foreign Loans and Grants Department of the Education Loan Fund of Mongolia said, “The amount of loans granted to master's and doctoral students has not exceeded from 32,000 USD to 48,000 USD. But bachelor's students are given what they ask for to study in the best universities in the world. Among all the people who studied in the world's best universities in the past, there are 30 people who took loans of more than 200,000 USD.” It can be seen from here that Mongolia has poured a lot of money into the bachelor's program in the name of educating its young people in the world's best universities and training skilled specialists.

In addition, Mongolia ranks higher in the world in terms of the number of people with higher education. There are currently 64 universities operating in Mongolia, which is a high number compared to the population. However, the high unemployment rate and the lack of skilled professionals confirm the need for us to rethink the higher education system and focus on making smarter investments. According to the University Oxford’s doctorant student, it's time for the Government of Mongolia to change its way of seeing the universities in Mongolia as training camps for students to study abroad, and entrust undergraduate education to domestic scientists and teachers.