Prakash Pandey: Aspirations, challenges, and global pursuits in Nepal’s education landscape

With an impressive track record spanning over 18 years, Pandey is a trusted voice in Nepal’s education sector. In this exclusive interview, he shares insights on the recent Grade 12 results, students’ preferred programs and study destinations, and concerns over recognizing foreign qualifications.

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The study-abroad demand among young people in Nepal remains thriving, yet there may be challenges in aspiring international students’ quality and readiness, as indicated by recent outcomes in local assessment. 

MSM Reporter spoke to Prakash Pandey, Managing Director of MATES INTERNATIONAL Education & Visa Services – Nepal and immediate past President of the Educational Consultancy Association of Nepal (ECAN) on the aspirations of Nepali youth and the factors driving overseas study.

With Pandey’s impressive track record spanning over 18 years, his expertise encompasses a spectrum of domains including educational and career counseling, international admissions, education marketing, client relations, recruitment, and team management.

His distinction as one of the select PIER-certified Qualified Education Agent Counsellor (QEAC) practitioners in Nepal underscores his experience in providing guidance and support to aspiring international students.

Pandey sheds light on Nepal’s education landscape, sharing insights on the recent Grade 12 results, students’ preferred programs and disciplines, and shifts in education that have been influenced by the pandemic. He also addresses challenges for foreign qualifications to be recognized in Nepal.

How should the latest results of the Grade 12 exams be interpreted in terms of passing marks?
Our marking system in the exam for class 12 has changed in the last few years. This year, the result has not been encouraging for many students. Almost 50% of attendees of the exam have been non-graded. This is one of the worst results in recent years.

Many students among the non-graded will be given a chance to reappear for the exam to improve their scores. Non-graded students will not be allowed to join higher education. Thus, it will have a big impact on the international education sector since Nepal is one of the key source countries.

What does it mean when a student is in the non-graded category? What does this say in terms of test taker quality and the assessment itself?
Being in the non-graded category means these students are not allowed to study further. They have to reappear for the exam, and get better grades for them to be able to study further. This clearly means our students are not prepared enough for further education. They have not been taught well. The transition from the old system to the grading system hasn’t been smooth. This has created doubt in the assessment model itself.

What does current data say about Nepalese students’ preferred programs and disciplines when they’re applying for college abroad?
Nepalese students apply for all kinds of programs and disciplines for study abroad. Current data shows there has been preference for nursing, IT, hospitality, business, and engineering courses.

How about their preferred country destinations?
Australia has been the number one preferred destination. Japan attracts students after Australia. Canada has picked up as the third destination with a good visa grants rate over the last two years. USA, UK, Denmark, New Zealand, Germany are among other preferred destinations. Bangladesh, China, and the Philippines attract a lot of medical students. Due to open borders and easy access, India is preferred by many students as well.

What are some shifts in these preferences from 2022 in the post-pandemic rebound?
We still see Australia as a preferred destination among Nepalese students. The surge in applications for Australia was overwhelming post-pandemic. Despite higher visa refusal rates in the recent past, it still is the number one destination.

Canada has become a new attraction for Nepalese students. It is expected to surpass Japan as the second preferred destination among Nepalese students very soon and may challenge Australia in terms of preference, if the current trend continues.

What’s your primary or most critical advice to aspiring Nepalese international students in the current environment?
Going overseas for education is not an easy task. Student and parents must have a clear understanding of the process involved, associated costs, and differences in culture, environment, and language, among other things. There is a fair number of good institutions in Nepal as well. Thus, students need to consider choices available in Nepal before making the decision to go abroad.

Lately, Nepali students who have completed their schooling or higher education from foreign boards and universities are struggling to get equivalence certificates / recognition from Tribhuvan University. What are your thoughts on this?
Tribhuvan University carries the duty of equivalency of foreign qualifications in Nepal. There are many courses which are not taught in Nepal or at TU, resulting in issues. Furthermore, the duration of courses also has an impact on the recognition of qualifications.

The equivalence should be based on the credit, syllabus, and course studied, not on the basis of duration of the course. Students should be also guided on what more to study and where to study to qualify for equivalency if not granted in the first instance. Also, the process has to be smooth and prompt.

Higher education institutions often talk about sustainable recruitment. From a counselor’s perspective, how do you define this concept and how can both HEIs and agents/counselors recruit students sustainably?
Having a clear understanding of the market is the most important factor in recruitment. Quality education with a wide range of courses, which are currently in demand globally, is something students will always opt for. Price and visa are other key factors. For sustainable recruitment, both HEIs and agents should act through cost-effective digital marketing strategies and diversify into new markets so that the visa outcomes have less effect on overall recruitment.

What makes Nepalese students a remarkable source market for HEIs?
Nepal is a developing country with a large youth population. Demand for high-quality education in HEIs, as well as the vocational sector, is prevalent in Nepal. Due to constraints in the number of quality institutions, many students prefer to go overseas for education and skills enhancement. Besides, overseas qualifications yield better earnings and work opportunities. Thus, the aspiration among our youth to study abroad is very high.

Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

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Nathan Yasis

Nathan Yasis

Nathan studied information technology and secondary education in college. He dabbled in and taught creative writing and research to high school students for three years before settling in as a digital journalist.

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