Apr 9, 2018-

Having been in business for almost two decades, Himalayan White House is a familiar name in Kathmandu’s higher level education circuit.  When Yuvraj Sharma, president of the college, opened the school with +2 syllabi in science, humanities, and management streams, he admits he was not confident about the direction it would take.

But the plunge he took worked in his favours—before he realised students and parents alike started choosing the institution for the quality education it offered. Within a year,  the institution offered an undergraduate programme in BBA, which was soon followed by other programmes in science, hospitality and humanities streams.

In this interview with the Post’s Alisha Sijapati, Sharma talks about the hurdles he has faced and surpassed in the education sector and shares the importance of hiring right human resources for academic institutions. Excerpts:

What was the first year of opening Himalayan White House like?

For any person, starting a new venture is always a daunting task. I faced many challenges in the beginning and along the line, I have had many hiccups. When we started out in 2001, parents were doubtful about the kind of education high schools were providing in the country. In an attempt to choose the right path for their children, many were sending their kids off to India. I can take pride in the fact that White House was a pioneer of sorts in providing an alternative to the trend. When I opened the college I was not sure if it would do well, but I was overwhelmed by the responses we got in the first year itself. Parents and students appreciated our fresh teaching methods and approach to the curriculum. The encouragement motivated us to take a leap and introduce an undergrad programme in management as well. There has been no turning back since.

As an educational honcho, what kind of challenges do you have to tackle regularly?

Although, Himalayan White House is already a pioneer in the education sector, it’s not always a smooth ride. The encouragement from the parents and students has pushed us to go the extra mile, but there are always limitations—there are laws, policies, and rules and regulations that we have to abide by. We have had a vision of turning this college into a university for some time now, but unfortunately, the dream is taking forever to materialise. Besides, to be part of the education sector means to be part of cut-throat competition. Everybody wants to offer best of the best curricula to lure students in. But it’s not easy. Currently, a lot of academic institutions are failing because quality education requires a huge investment and ample resources, and without them things will only go down the drain.

What are your secrets to micro-managing various aspects of the institution?

Over the years, we have catered to three groups of students—high school, undergraduate, and post graduate; in three streams—science, management and hospitality management. The secret to micro-managing lies in hiring a specialised team. Teachers play a very important role in an academic institution. We believe in offering autonomy to teachers, who have complete freedom to introduce innovative curricula. This is how any academic institution should function. The managing team is only there to streamline and regulate the quality of education delivered to the students.

What sort of characteristics must a leader acquire?

A leader must be visionary. If you are in it, you need to put in your 100 percent. You need to be passionate about the field, you have embraced. To reach the top, you need to be dedicated and honest to yourself. When it comes to an education institution, it takes at least 20 years to establish faith and leave a mark in the sector. Nothing happens overnight—you need to work your way through it. Your vision also needs to align with your team’s. The team needs to walk shoulders to shoulders with you and understand the importance of offering world class service. A person with a positive and dynamic persona can change anything around them. A leader definitely needs an charming aura.

There is a cut-throat competition between colleges to provide world-class science and management degrees, but not so much when it comes to liberal arts. Have you thought of venturing more into the latter?

It is evident that science and management are very competitive fields in this sector. However, having worked in the field for 20 years, I have complete faith in my team to these streams. Talking of liberal arts, we are working towards offering better curriculum in the future with more specialisation in sociology, mass communication, and other contemporary subjects.

During the hiring process, what sorts of characteristics do you look for in the teachers? And how do you make sure they meet your expectation?

Teachers’ quality is key for the success of an academic institution. We have a rigorous hiring process for teachers where the shortlisted candidates’ calibre is assessed in multiple stages through an interview,  a class demonstration, and students’ feedback. We then provide them with training to make sure that our visions are aligned. We ask them to develop their own curriculum that comprises of presentations, quizzes and various other activities. We ensure that the teachers guide the students and improve their performance alongside. We focus on growth. Only when a teacher is willing to grow, will the students grow. We strongly value dedication and passion—one cannot accomplish their goals without these two virtues.

How do you and your teachers help the students grow?

The students we are dealing with make a challenging age-group. Handling adolescents and young adults is no joke—it has to be done with certain level of sensitivity. We offer scholarships to students who surpass our expectations, we push them to do their best in assignments and take every task as an opportunity to grow. We approach the weaker students carefully with counsellors and teachers who are willing to help them tackle their issues on a personal level. We also treat our students as our friends.

Published: 09-04-2018 09:12

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