British College principal thinks Nepali students are in better position than western kids. Here’s why  

Joey Foster Ellis is the principal at the British College. The 34-year-old man is living and working in Nepal since 2014.

Ellis has Bachelor of Fine Arts degrees from two universities – Alfred University in America and Central Academy of Fine Arts in China. He got his Master of Science in Conservation Studies at the University College London in Doha, Qatar. After that, he came to Nepal where he first worked as a mentor at USEF. Ellis is also the recipient of the 2010 TED Global Fellowship program.

Ellis recently spoke to Onlinekhabar about why he is in the educational sector in Nepal, opportunities and challenges of education in this country and ways to overcome them.


 Why did you become principal of British college?

After so many years in Nepal, seeing the education system and seeing where things work and don’t work, I wanted to get involved in this sector. I joined this company because I wanted to make an impact on the lives of my students. As an artist, I didn’t have to face people much. But, as a principal, I couldn’t do that. There was no hiding place. I had to talk to my kids and my staff, try to motivate them and make them better every day.

I feel every day I am influencing someone’s life. Even at USEF, I was doing something similar, but I wasn’t working on one-on-one basis. Here I get to do that. I get to work with kids one-on-one. As an educator, my currencies are my children. You don’t go into education for money. You get into education because you feel that you can have an impact on someone’s life and make them better.

With my knowledge, confidence and experience, I can make these kids way more prepared for a future than we do not yet know.

What has been your biggest challenge here in Nepal?

To me, it is to motivate the workers. This might be the best thing about Nepal: money isn’t everything, stability is. Recognition within the family and within the community is more important than money.

People who work for companies here don’t necessarily want to go straight to the top. They want a stable job to support their family and be respected both inside and outside the workspace.

The western thinking: you can motivate people by giving them more money and more responsibility by promotion. But that does not work here in Nepal. I like that because it shows that this country has a lot more humanity than others.

Nepal values its cultural identity. And here it’s about family and stability. For me, it’s about trying to find ways to encourage my team in the workplace and my students. I need to learn how to nurture and harness. I have been trying to do that.

You have been exposed to Chinese, British and American education systems. How are they different from that of Nepal?

I think we can’t compare one place to another. I would never say that we are less. I think we are better. It’s not the educational system itself. Nepal’s greatest value is its human intellectual capital. And our students have talent. They have talent in an age where they are getting a global education.

But as it is the age of internet, you get pop culture pretty easily. People here know Beyoncé and Jay Z’s songs better than people in America. But as you’re living in a developing nation, you see the disparity of wealth, you see what’s talked about in the news, you see what’s written out in books. You have access to various international magazines and books. You don’t need sheltered lives here. The kids in the west do. So you’re getting everything that they have; plus you’re getting practical experience in knowledge and understanding what the book means.

You can live your life inside a book; but if you don’t experience life, you don’t know how to connect them. And kids here have more advantages than most of the western kids and they should know that. The potential here is incredible for the talent on show here.

You have experiences from the UK, America and other Asian countries. But you still believe that we are better.  

I want my kids to realise that I chose to come here for a reason. I see the potential in this country in so many ways. I’ve seen the world and I’ve seen many different things. And yes, I do believe that kids should go abroad but that said, I do tell them that the future is Nepal. They should go abroad learn and then come back to make this country a better place.

Because the brain drain is quite shocking, I want to combat that, I want to give my kids UK degrees to make them globally recognised. But I want them to influence here.

What do your students say about going abroad?

Most of them say they want to go abroad to see the world. Seeing something is believing. I’m ok with that. I tell them to find those international values; but don’t forget your local roots. And that is what we at the British College really stress. We offer a private education, but our private and public education sectors go hand in hand. I think we learn so much from the public education sector here, and vice versa.

Most of them want to go to Australia and America. But I do tell them that it’s not going to be easy. It’s going to be so hard. Why basically leave such a stable life to go grind as a housekeeper or a waiter. I don’t want my kids to do that. If they do go abroad, I want them to go work at good companies. We try to teach them that they can create these types of jobs here. And jobs do exist here.

Is this a vision of your institution?

The vision is to give students here premium education, to give them UK degrees, offer them a curriculum which is developed every year based on global research. We also train our teachers to create learning environment that is of global standard. I personally am trying to push that since I became principal because I don’t want where you are from to dictate where you are going to go. I don’t want kids here to not have the same opportunities as other kids have in education.

Is that what makes you different from other colleges?

Every college here is special in its own way. I don’t want to sell my school because I am not a salesman. I don’t think of education as a business, I see it as an investment. And I think that no school is going to be right for every kid.

Some may be good at +2, some CBSE, some A level. I think parents need to understand that kids are individuals. And, educators need to basically embrace their individuality and let them learn what they want to learn. Let them go that way. Parents need to understand the kids are global and they are local because both grew up in different times. Books are now available on a phone. Kids need to be taught how to balance their lives.

Does it suggest that education has to be more practical than theoretical?

I think it’s a mix of both. The advent of technology has to be taken positively. I want to give these kids a new environment to grow in. Each kid learns different. Someone might want to learn the theoretical aspect of some area whereas someone might want to know more of the technical and practical side of things. It all depends on the one’s learning style. We teach core topics to students; but we also make sure that they use these in daily lives. We teach students that everything is interconnected.

Published on June 26th, Wednesday, 2019 10:07 AM

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