Information Technology (IT) is the new buzzword, and computer schools in Kathmandu are struggling to keep up with demand.
Classes are always full because of the rapid rate of IT evolution and the vastness of the area of study. For a student, choosing the right institute and finding one's computer niche can be quite a maze.
The high concentration of IT schools in the Valley belies the importance of computer literacy today, but far too many bank on the ignorance of students and get by providing shabby service. It's always a good idea to shop around. Fortunately the Computer Association of Nepal's (CAN) InfoTech fair starts this weekend and will be an excellent place to gawk at the latest gadgets. It is also a good opportunity to see what the Valley's IT centres have to offer.
"Students often arrive without a clear aim," says Ganga Ram Manandhar at Pentasoft. Many are still in high school, or are working towards a bachelor's degree. So, Manandhar gives students a demonstration guide so they can decide according to interest and aptitude. A popular method for the undecided is the introductory Gateway 2, a two-month basic platform covering eight applications.
"The tragedy here," says Manandhar, "is that students only start computers from class eight, nine or ten. Then, the method of teaching is very narrow." He believes in the importance of stressing conceptual processes that drive applications like MS Word so the students are not limited and are capable of exploring outside the norm.
It is not easy for IT schools to maintain a standard of excellence, because teaching IT well rests not only on good hardware like computers and classrooms, but also a great deal on the teachers. In the Valley the stress is on herding students through the course, leaving one to question the capabilities of the trainers. The instructor turnover rate is high in Kathmandu, affecting the quality of computer education.
Recently, Pentasoft invited Dhanjeet Shah, a Nepali trainer certified in the UK for a seminar on Auto CAD, a software critical to building design, structure, internal wiring, interior design and a requirement for engineers. Information sharing is paramount and the institute plans to take awareness programs to colleges. But the responsibility to lay strong IT foundations must be shared.
New Horizons is a franchise of a California-based computer training school ration, and places a premium on the capability of its trainers. "We have maintained a high standard and are confident in our product because of our instructors," says New Horizons' Rachana Khatri.
Five classrooms, each equipped with the latest Pentium IV computers, provide an inviting atmosphere for serious students. Candidates arrive at New Horizons to supplement their knowledge of computers or to embark upon IT careers. Counsellors or account executives talk to interested students, making them aware of what is available to them. They are encouraged to sit in on a class to assess for themselves.
New Horizons aim to tailor their facilities to the needs of Nepalis, providing the best training available at reasonable prices. Providing a 100 percent learning guarantee, they have a multi-dimensional approach. Students have access to "Online Anytime Learning", a web-based interactive training available 24 hours a day. With access to an online library, they have resources at the touch of a key. Skill assessments help students to identify and focus on areas requiring improvement. Slow learners may retake any class any number of times.
CAN Infotech 2003 at Birendra International Convention Centre from 23-28 January)