Actively involved in education sector NAROTTAM ARYAL did his MPhil from Norway in Public Administration. Currently, Executive Director and Principal of the King's College, he is the winner of highest medal for students Mahendra Bidhya Bhusan, apart from 2013 Manager of the Year award. The present education system of the country is not practical and leading to educated unemployed thus he thinks that the entrepreneurial education is the cure for the current unemployment. KAROBAR National Economic Daily caught up with Aryal to talk about unemployment, education, entrepreneurship, and agendas for quality education in the country. The excerpts:
• Despite the country having many quality business colleges, the number of students opting for foreign education is on the rise. How can this trend be reversed?
In this age of information, students know what they are looking for and they know Nepal’s education system is in turmoil. But let me also add a few positive perspectives on this. We are operating in a global free market, and Nepali students also need to learn and be exposed to the global education. And this also promotes a sense of competition among our own universities and colleges. As a result, we are now forced to think about being competitive globally and locally. We can also make Nepal an educational destination for foreign students, given its cordial relationships with other countries, favorable climatic condition, and lower living cost.
• Many colleges, of late, are offering courses of foreign universities. What benefits do they ensure for the students and the country?
The key benefit of this practice is that our students now do not have to reside outside the country while studying for a foreign degree. Also, as traditions show, the education system of most of the foreign universities; especially those in North America, West Europe and Pacific; offer high-quality education than our local universities. Thus an affiliation with a foreign university in any of these regions allows us to follow a quality curriculum and contextualize the lessons for the Nepali context.
• How can Nepal’s education be made globally accepted?
We need to have global recognition through the accreditation of globally acclaimed agencies. Actually, we should dare to have the global ambition, and towards that direction, we should invest in infrastructure, develop globally acclaimed educators, conduct quality research, maintain integrity in operations, implement socially relevant curriculum, and partner with industries.
• Is education business or service?
I think we need to think this issue from a different perspective. Any institution requires financial resources to run. Public institutions are run by the taxpayers’ money whereas private institutions are bound to generate its own revenue, hence no matter it’s a college or a hospital or any other institution, it has to generate revenue from the ones who receive the service.At King’s, we strongly believe that we generate revenue to run the college, to enhance the quality, to support the welfare of students and staff, and to sustain growth.
• How do you think the higher education system should be restructured with the nation marching towards the federalism?
The government should be cautious while investing in higher education. It should not focus on the number of resources it has been spending in country’s education sector for long. Rather the focus should be more on quality of this investment. As the country gears up for federalism, we should check our past mistakes and not repeat them while making similar investments at the local levels across all seven provinces.
• What type of education is suitable for Nepal?
Nepal’s education should focus more on technology-based curriculum that promotes problem-solving skills and creativity. Our education should also help students look into homegrown problems and empower them to find innovative solutions. For that, we need universities and colleges investing in knowledge creation. We also need a strong independent accreditation body that ensures quality education, and to control rampant misconducts in educational institutions.
• How is King’s College doing at present?
We have reached here after years of hard efforts; much-needed patience and invaluable contributions from faculties, staffs and students’ side. Though the journey, at first, might appear tedious, we all are happy and satisfied with whatever we have built together. Over the years, we have transitioned from an A-level offering academic institution into one of the country’s pioneering business schools that offer quality education to both passionate and dedicated students. Now we have just one clear vision – transforming the society through entrepreneurship and education. In terms of maintaining quality education, we have been partnering with related public and private institutions, scholars and think-tanks, both local and international. We believe that we would only be able to afford quality education to our students when we create enough rooms for our students to learn – within the college premises and outside in the field.Having focused on offering graduate courses in business and entrepreneurship, we often try to work in ways that encourage our students and faculties to think outside the box and bring into learning process issues that are within the existing literature and academic publication but also in different parts of Nepal and outside.At the same time, we see a vital need to transform the education system of our country. It is still so heavily focused on unscientific assessment system, teacher-centered teaching philosophies, and outdated curriculum. For long, we have been complaining about what our education system lacks, but we don’t want to go that route. We are doing what we can do at our level to challenge the existing norms and standards.
• How is it excelling when it comes to offering a quality education?
Einstein once said that it is insane to do the same thing over and over again, but expect different results. If we don’t change our educational philosophies and traditional teaching approaches, it’s insane to dream of quality education.We believe that real meaningful learning happens when learners get their hands dirty. It’s not only about classrooms, books, or examinations, but it’s also about understanding real-life problems and finding innovative solutions. Guided by progressive education philosophies, we believe that learning is a social creation and students learn best when they are connected to the social realities outside the four walls of the classrooms. We offer a challenging yet adventurous curriculum that empowers students to be critical thinkers and creative problem solvers. We are strictly following the guidelines of standards for quality education, focusing on research-based teaching and learning, and more rigorous and scientific assessment. We strongly believe that this system has enabled our students to be creative, critical, and collaborative.
• King's, as an academic institution has been focusing on the development of the entrepreneurship in the nation. Is entrepreneurship only the game changer?
There are other areas or sectors which also play crucial roles when it comes to transforming country’s overall education and business landscapes. However, in our case having involved in offering graduate programs and also in academic research focused on entrepreneurship, we have come to realize that direct and spillover effects of the entrepreneurial workforce are higher than effects generated through intervention in other areas.
• How do you justify college’s longing for entrepreneurship development at a time when the mainstream business community has been complaining about weak investment environment?
We agree that different factors – including prolonged political instability, poor connectivity and physical infrastructures, and country’s landlockedness – have limited Nepal’s overall investment environment. But in the age of Artificial Intelligence and unprecedented technological disruption era, these physical barriers should not matter much and with our ideas, we should be able to see and work on opportunities that lie even within the identified investment challenges.
• What model of entrepreneurship have you envisioned for Nepal as a business school?
We all know that Nepal is full of resources but at the same time, full of social economic challenges. Despite having a huge potential, Nepal is still facing the massive problem of unemployment. On the other hand, most of the business is narrowly focused only on profit maximization, without taking into consideration the benefits for the society or solving the economic and social issues. Hence, we at King’s College envision that an entrepreneurship that caters to the needs of the society through the market solution is the most appropriate business model for Nepal. It will create a win-win situation for the entrepreneurs, investors, the community, and all the concerned stakeholders. It will also address the problem our dependency of foreign aid.This model has been very successful in our neighboring country Bangladesh which was initiated by the Nobel laureate Professor Md. Yunus. At King’s, we have also started a Yunus Social Business Center to promote a similar model of entrepreneurship in Nepal.