Manisha Khanal, 20, studies at Henry Ford International College. “Back from America for a short while?” she gets asked, and is fed up with the predictions people make about her studies.
“There are so many colleges in the capital with foreign sounding names. Like White house, Chelsea International Academy, etc. I have a few friends at those colleges but they are never asked, "You mean in America?.. Europe?..and so on,” she fumes. “Henry Ford is not a very popular name and each time I have to explain to people that the college is right here in the capital and I´ve never been to the US,” she elaborates.
Interestingly, students in Nepal have easy access to not only Caribbean, Bernhard, Einstein and Pyramid but also colleges like NASA, White House and Pentagon. The list is quite long. The records of the education department show that only three percent of the colleges established after 2055 B.S. have Nepali names. The rest have chosen the names of foreign states, cities, industral firms and so on.
“It´s so very surprising, shocking, unsuitable, irrelevant!” comments educationist Ganeshman Gurung. In fact, the ´meaningless´ English names literally give him a headache. “Pentagon! NASA!! White House!!! O my goodness…..What are these? You are living in Nepal and dealing with Nepalese and on top of that you´ve not ensured international standards by any means. This shows lousy vision on the part of those running the colleges,” he remarked. “You could rather go for names like Annapurna, Seti, Gandaki or Manakamana so that Nepali identity, history, geography would be highlighted.”
“But that [English-sounding names] is more of a compulsion than choice,” counters Pushkar Raj Pantha, principal of the college at Kalanki that Manisha Khanal attends. “I also feel that the English names are a bit ridiculous. But it is true such names make an impression among parents and students, irrespective of what the college has to offer,” he adds. He is quite sure that a Nepali-sounding name for his college would not have helped him draw 300 plus students in just a few years.
According to Manisha and her mother as well, the ´hi-fi´ name does work to some extent. “I sent her there not exactly because of the name, but yes, it also counts. You tend to imagine that the college might be of a higher standard, given a name like that,” said Aarati Khanal, Manisha´s mom.
The 6th amendment to the Education Act in 2051 B.S. says educational institutions should adopt names reflecting Nepal´s culture, history, geography, heritage or that honor national or social figures. However, blatant flouting of the Act was witnessed over the years as the department concerned did not intervene at all.
Of late, alarmed by this height of insensitivity in the choice of names for colleges, the education department has issued a directive to all 75 districts that suitable, relevant and Nepali-sounding names must be chosen for new colleges and for replacing old names. “We have issued directives to education offices in all the districts. They have been asked to change the names,” said Mahasharm Sharma, director general of the department.
However, the colleges themselves are least serious about this. They argue that since Nepal and its social service and trade sectors have come under the World Trade Organization (WTO) since 2004, the colleges are not compelled to follow the guideline on names.
“It is just to give us trouble that the education department has been meddling over names. As Nepal is a WTO member, colleges are free to choose names as they please,” Pantha marked.
(Source: Republica National Daily, written by Anjali Subedi)