Brain drain

Lesson plan overview

This B2-C1 ESL lesson plan is about brain drain, or human capital flight, which is a problem affecting many, mostly developing, countries. It can be used both as a Business English lesson and General English lesson. Students will discuss reasons for moving abroad, the situation in their countries, the negative consequences of brain drain, as well as possible ways to address the emigration of highly skilled individuals. It can be combined with the lessons “The happiest countries in the world”, “Climate refugees”, and “Idioms: moving abroad”.
The lesson starts with 2 speaking activities. First, students look at common reasons for moving abroad and put them in order of importance. Next, they look at news headlines and a map of the world showing how different countries are affected by brain drain, and complete the definition of the term “brain drain”. After making sure students understand the term, they discuss 6 questions given.
Vocabulary: Students look at different statements, including the target vocabulary from this lesson (e.g. exodus, diaspora, dead-end career, seek greener pastures, human capital flight, workforce shortage). They match the phrases to their definitions and then discuss the sentences, comparing them to the situation in their own country. To practise the vocabulary, students paraphrase 5 sentences, completing them with an expression from the previous activity.
Pre-listening and listening: Before watching the video for this lesson, students brainstorm measures to address brain drain, Then they watch the video “What is brain drain?“, and complete 2 activities.
Speaking: Finally, students look at more measures to mitigate the effects of brain drain, and discuss different aspects of each one.
You can use the conversation cards to review the target vocabulary from this lesson.
You can combine this lesson with other lessons related to migration, developing and developed countries, job prospects and living abroad.

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Teacher’s lesson plan

Student’s worksheet

Student’s interactive PDF

Conversation cards PDF

Pre-class activities

To send the pre-class activities to your students, copy the link below.

Vocabulary matching


The first time you watch the video, pay special attention to the correct pronunciation of the following words:

The lure of better opportunities abroad has led to a significant shortage of medical professionals, straining healthcare systems and leaving local communities underserved.
Africa’s technological advancement heavily relies on skilled engineers and IT professionals. Unfortunately, many African countries struggle to retain their brightest minds in these fields.
This brain drain not only affects the quality of education, but also impedes the development of innovative solutions to Africa’s unique challenges, such as climate change, poverty alleviation, and sustainable development.

Comprehension questions

In-class activities

Teacher’s lesson plan
Student’s worksheet

Conversation cards PDF

Student’s interactive PDF

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