Saturday, February 13, 2010

A Mockery of Education in Scandinavia!

Scandinavia is a region in northern Europe, which includes the Nordic countries of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. Finland, Iceland, and the Faroe Island are also often considered parts of Scandinavia. Having lived in Scandinavia, precisely in Sweden and Finland, I can tell you that it's one of the most desireable places in the world to live. Scandinavian countries are for the most part wonderful! If you doubt it, check the UN Human Development Report. In 2009, BBC reported that Norway, was the best country to live in. Also in the top 10 best countries to live in 2009, were two other Scandinavian countries - Iceland and Sweden. It's worthy to note that Helsinki, Finland is among the world's top 10 most liveable cities in 2010. In academia, Scandinavia is home to one of the World's top 100 universities and education is tuition-free, in some of the countries - Sweden and Finland, precisely. Tuition-free education in the region attracts thousands of students from all over the world - Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East, and graduates from Scandinavian universities are equipped to compete for top career positions worldwide. Many international students flock to the region and receive the best education, free of charge. After graduation, some find jobs in their field of studies - mostly out of Scandinavia, while a good number of those who hope to find jobs in the region, hit a brick wall and soon realise that there's a mockery of education in Scandinavia.

Like I said, I've been on the ground in Scandinavia - from Rovaniemi (northern Finland); to Gothenburg (west coast of Sweden); to Lund, Malmö and Linköping (southern Sweden) and Stockholm (south-central east coast of Sweden) and back to Helsinki (southern Finland); not forgetting Copenhagen, Denmark. You'd therefore agree that I have a grasp of the region and hence - "locus standi" to address the plight of university graduates - I mean Masters and PhD holders in Scandinavia.

Everywhere I go in Scandinavia, it's the same story - university graduates can't find the jobs for which they spent many years in school, preparing themselves. As a result, highly educated folks (mostly foreigners) are reduced to menial jobs like
cleaning, dish washing, newspaper delivery, you name it. Those who choose the cleaning job have to clean hotels, schools, restaurants or homes; those who choose to be dish washers have to wash dishes in hotels and restuarants; those who choose to deliver newspaper have to wake up at 1AM everyday (irrespective of snow, rain, sun or whatever is outside) to go make deliveries - they have to wake up this early because there's a reading culture in Scandinavia and newspaper subscribers expect their newspapers delivered before 6AM, daily. This is the story of university graduates in Scandinavia! It's a story of well educated folks, caught at the bottom rung of a society - far from home.

The truth is, some of these jobs are fairly paid - up to 9 euros (approximately $12.25) per hour and there're graduates who subscribe to be full-time workers - 8 hours a day. Is this what they really want to do? I have spoken to many Masters degree holders and a few PhDs and they have one thing in common - they don't like what they do! They apply for menial jobs because they have to put food on the table. This is well understood. But, the problem is - most graduates become complacent and stop looking for other options. They get caught up in the routine of their menial jobs and think they can somehow keep doing what they're doing, until another option shows up from nowhere. This, in my mind, is hallucination at it's best! Gone are the days when manna came from heaven! There's no way you'd live the life of your dreams if you don't make an effort to break free from a system that insults your intelligence! No doubt, you have to put food on the table, but don't stop searching for what you deserve.

So, why would a society that provides tuition-free education not provide it's university graduates with the jobs they deserve?

Some blame it on the economy. This is a lame excuse because underemployment has been the plight of numerous university graduates in Scandinavia - long before the economic meltdown. Others blame it on language barriers. This is a valid argument! Scandinavian countries have their local languages and most of the international students who graduate don't bother to learn a local language. You'd agree that it's impossible to function in a society if you can't communicate with the people. However, a good number of graduates speak Swedish, Finnish, Dannish or Norwagian, but what they get is a "better" menial job. Yes! A "better" menial job!

There're international organizations (with English as a working language) in these countries - why don't they employ international graduates? Unfortunately, most jobs where foreigners can compete are expressly
reserved for nationals of a Member State of the European Union or nationals of the European Economic Area. What about qualified and talented nationals of non-European countries? Should they go clean, wash dishes and deliver newspapers - to make a living? This might or might not surprise you, but there's a kind of "legalized discrimination" in the labor market in Scandinavia.

Well, call it whatever you want, but you can't deny the fact that there's a mockery of education in the region! Where else in the "developed" world is it normal for Masters and PhDs to work in the field of cleaning, dish washing and newspapers delivery?

For the thousands of underemployed university graduates in Scandinavia, life is a constant battle of survival - sink or swim! Find a good job and create the lifestyle you deserve or be complacent and spend the rest of your life, working menial jobs. The system in place, although largely responsible, can't take all the blame. You have to improvise! Why not start a business? After all, there're lots of opportunities out there.

It's true that Scandinavia is a desireable place to live; but it's also true that there's a mockery of education in Scandinavia!

In case you missed it: Odd Jobs for the Highly Educated in Europe!

1 comment:

  1. Hey Mr Abeng,
    yuo ceased words from my mouth in this article. I wish lots of your fellow country men in the Scandinavia would read your article without any bias. I would not be surprised if some find it offensive because it reveals who they are. I have lived in the northern part of Sweden where at times those menial jobs are even difficult to come by. Doing these menial jobs while one studies is perfectly ok for one's upkeep, but doing them after your degrees for so long is sad. Where's their dignity? Do they need to go to the Uni before qualifying for such jobs? Why can't they save up some money from these jobs and return home to live more dignified lives if they can't find elsewhere to settle? They sing the chorus "Gov't back home is terrible", but is that enough excuse? Than live like that, I preferably go back home and offer free services but maintain my dignity, if I can't find somewhere better. I admire those who've gathered the courage to return home, I know how frightful the very thought of returning home can be to some. If only they could think, and think again.
    I am however grateful for the free quality education I received from there that propelled me to where I am today. Perhaps without foresight, I would have found myself guilty after reading your article or would have found the article very offensive. Keep it up.

    One thing though, while everything in the article is ok, I think the title is a little misleading or doesn't perfectly match the content. I dived into this article expecting education standards as the focus.Those standards is mentioned, it does not form the focus as I expected. Beautiful article!

    Happy Easter.


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