NEW DELHI: Indian families spent the least in four years in April for their wards' education in foreign countries, indicative of the disruption caused by covid-19 and the ensuing lockdown.
In April, for which the education spending data is available, India’s outward remittances were at $78.76 million, almost 75% less than March and also over 70% lower on year.
According to the Reserve Bank of India (RBI), while India’s outward study abroad remittances were $312.68 million in March, it was $497 million in February and $510 million in January.
Experts said it is reflective of the study abroad prospects of Indians in 2020 in the face of immigration rules, covid-19 impact on education at key foreign education destinations like the US and UK, and the overall financial hardship of people to send money abroad for education.
"I see a direct correlation of this data with the muted study abroad market this year due to the pandemic. In 2020, there is a good possibility Indian students going abroad for education will drop by 40%," said Suneet Singh Kochar, chief executive of Fateh Education, a firm that helps students get admission in European universities.
Kocher said till covid-19 hit hard in late March, the market was fine but after that there was a definite dip because of four reasons – uncertainty over physical mode of education, dwindling job prospects in key study abroad destinations, the fear of the disease and income loss of families due to the pandemic.
“A sizable number of students who were planning to go to foreign countries by July are not going. Those scheduled to go in August-September are still not clear. While the safety net in India due to less corona cases in March-April is no more there as the infection is spreading in India now, some students are willing to go abroad but the fear of rejection due to immigration rules, delay in visa processing, and dwindling job prospects there have created confusion," Kocher said.
“This has a direct bearing on outward remittances for foreign education. Besides, the income loss of parents is strong reason that will impact the foreign education expenses by Indian families," he added.
Vineet Gupta, a co-founder of Ashoka University and founder of Jamboree Education, an education company, said because of high infections in the US, Indian students either came back home or went to their relatives places in the US. "This closure of campuses and returning of students from the US too has a role in this, low remittance," Gupta said, adding that April generally is not a high remittance month like January or July-August but such a drastic fall in remittance was “surprising" for him.
Kocher, said for destinations like UK and Ireand, students generally deposit an acceptance fee after an offer of admission and due to the lockdown in India and problem in foreign countries, some universities allowed students to deposit this amounts ranging between $2000 to $4000 late. “If you put together the four to five reasons, you will know why RBI data was so low for this segment," he said.