A Bhutanese Refugee’s Resettlement Diary: Part 2

Ganesh Gurung walks onto the WSU campus.

By Ganesh Gurung

One of my dreams in this new land was to get international degrees so that I could have better jobs and make the rest of my life easier. To achieve this goal, I went to college and gathered a lot of information. Accordingly, I completed the equivalency of my Bachelor’s degree, which I had received in Nepal at Tribhuvan University, at the Center for Educational Documentation.

Here in the U.S.A., before beginning regular classes everyone has to take placement tests in math and English. I did the same and passed the placement test in English writing to determine which course I was eligible to start with. I got the highest score achievable on the test, an 8. I was technically designated as a second semester junior with 86 credits transferred from the degree I had acquired from previous universities in Nepal.

Finally, I was accepted at Worcester State University (WSU). My first day of college in the USA at WSU was totally indescribable and somewhat interesting. I really felt uneasy speaking with classmates and chose to sit in the corner of the classroom. This is not unnatural for internationally transferred students because of a lack of friends from the same country who speak their language. In any case, I felt really alone throughout the whole Spring semester. Somehow, I was able to make a few friends later at the end of the semester during a group project work and presentation.

In the beginning of my college days, I was very excited to have the experience of different educational systems here in the USA. Unlike the educational experience which I had acquired in Nepal, here it was totally different. The educational terminologies, the credit system, class quizzes, group presentations, conferences with the professors, research methodologies, internships for future job readiness, four-year bachelor’s degrees with freshman, sophomore, junior and senior years were all new to me.

Here, it does not matter which year you are in; it matters how much credit you need to complete your degrees. It is very natural here in the U.S.A. for the same class to have freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors put together; the classes here are not distinguished by level like in Nepal. It takes 120 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in a major which an individual chooses, but some time might be needed to take extra courses to meet the standard of the American educational system as well as the college’s specific requirements. That is what I am doing right now. I am taking 30 extra credits to meet the college requirements and an extra 27 credits to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in my major.

Most amazing of all were sign boards saying ‘smoke free breathe healthy’ all around the corner and main entrances of WSU which reflects the discipline and best policies of the college management. These are some of the very important differences that I have recorded. The teachers here are very knowledgeable, friendly and industrious. All the professors are brilliant and scholarly in their respective subjects, which could be due to the availability of resources and the system of the education based on research. The educational system here is very strict and instills everyone with the same effort for mastering their subjects. I personally feel this type of education to be very interesting and meaningful because each class I have had has helped me a lot to add another brick to the roads to reach the destination I am determined to reach.

In Nepal, thousands of bachelor’s and master’s students remain confused about what they have learned and what job they will do. To be honest, most of the government universities are not strictly run. Both students and universities’ management bodies are equally to blame for the degradation of the educational system in Nepal. Most of the students are not serious and, at the same time, they lack a set of strict educational policies or a system to keep track of students’ progress or attendance. They lack the group discussions and practical presentation sessions. They never have class quizzes and extra research reading. There is no credit system at all.

In Nepal, college and university classes are based on textbook reading and note writing. I never had an experience of assignments there. A few, creative students attend teachers’ lecture classes and take notes. This is what the most responsible and brilliant students do. Levels and grades are determined by successful completion of a full year of studies with a passing grade rather than by the quality learning measured by a credit system. In Nepal, to pass each level each student has to appear for a written examination in the appointed exam center once a year. Some do it sincerely, while some cheat to pass this exam. No computers and visual experiments or research are carried out to add more meaning to the students’ studies. This could be due to poor economic status and a weak management system.

Most often, universities and colleges remain closed for a number of days due to political issues. It looks like colleges and universities have been a platform not for education but for the debate of political issues. Moreover, teaching practices in Nepal are based on theory and are exam oriented rather than research based and practical. Despite all these shortages and downfalls in the educational system, we still find some determined and intelligent students with good knowledge and marks on hand which is due to their great educational devotion and extra hard work which they put in for the best result. It takes a long time of devotion and great sacrifice to accomplish college degrees, but what if the degrees are merely acquired by cheating and the degree programs are not accepted internationally? It costs a lot of money to earn degrees here in the USA. Every single credit is accountable. There are lot of good professors, expert educators and accredited universities in Nepal, too, but why don’t they take the necessary steps to change the curriculum and help out the number of students to brighten their futures by providing quality education and international accreditation?

As a whole, this article is intended to focus on the differences and difficulties seen in the educational methodologies of Nepal and the USA because I have been through these problems and differences personally. It could help the thousands of determined students, intellectuals, educators, and social workers to think over it once more and apply some innovative ideas to bring changes in the education system and policies which are achievable and measurable.

My point of view is that education is not a joke and it is not meant for fun. Every single student, parent and the government expert must be aware of these issues and take necessary action for changes to make it more realistic and practical, because education is the only key to all-round development of individuals and the country. Therefore, it is wise to make necessary changes in educational systems and to frame new policies rather than making schools, colleges and universities a political platform and fun center, because it is time to justify the undying interest of those students who walk more than four or five hours to reach the schools and colleges. It is time to justify the enduring affection of those students who risk their lives to reach the schools by crossing a huge river on single cable rope way.

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