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Generating hope
... and eliminating fear to stop the brain drain

By Mohammad Ala
October 24, 2002
The Iranian

A recent article [The biggest injustice] in The Iranian about Iran's "brain drain", reminded me of a problem which has bothered me in the past. The "brain drain" phenomenon is not limited to Iran nor is it a new problem. The majority of lesser developed countries have also experienced the same problem.

In my previous papers which I have delivered in Iran, the first time I discussed it was in 1989, and I raised the issue as recently as May of this year. I teach short courses in Iran twice a year and present research papers to university students. I ask my students why they want to leave Iran? The two most common answers are:

1. They end up working in organizations where their bosses/supervisors are incompetent.
2. They feel that they cannot grow intellectually and that no one is interested in their ideas.

In a recent trip to Iran I presented a paper entitled "Large Organizations and their Technological Problems," to managers of the Nationnal Iranian Oil Company. During the discussions many managers told me that no students from Sharif or Amirkabir universities apply for job openings which announced by the NIOC.

I know few Iranians who have left the U.S. and returned in order to work in Iran. I asked why had they left the U.S. The majority indicated it was because they felt an obligation to help Iran.

Of course there are other ways to help Iran; for example, we can teach and share our knowledge with Iranian students (who generally are much better than the students whom I have had in Europe, China, and the U.S. ). One can also send books and journals to Iran, and support Iranian students who come to study in the Western countries.

In May 2002, in the Foreign Ministry, where a small number of Iranian professors were invited to share their experiences with several officials, I talked about "fear and hope." There is a fear among Iranians who live outside of Iran which must be eliminated.

The best way is for the Iranian officials to talk to them and invite them to participate in many projects which are given to non-Iranians. I believe that many Iranians will help Iran without asking for financial benefits.

I also talked about "hope," which must be created so that our young people will not leave Iran. By my reference to "hope," I meant that young people will not stay in Iran unless they have the hope that a good education, prosperity, and ultimately a better life awaits them in their homeland.

Over the years, I have become convinced that the changes can only be made by people who understand the Iranian culture and who can create a vision of Iranian progress that is acceptable to the majority of Iranian people.

This is a long and slow process in any culture. It is disturbing to read that some Western countries try to impose their own thinking on our culture because they believe that Western culture is superior. Unless we work together to create a positive vision appropriate to our culture, we will continue to experience this alarming "brain drain".


Mohammad Ala is President of Iranians for International Cooperation and founder of and Dr. Ala is Professor of Production and Operations Management and Director of Productivity Center at California State University, Los Angeles. More info here.

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