Studying in a French school is not only about learning the French language, it is also about participating in a French-style education
École Française Internationale de Katmandou was set up in Lazimpat in 1987 to cater to the needs of a growing French community in Kathmandu. However, the quality of education it offered attracted other nationalities not just from Francophone countries, but also other expatriates and Nepalis. Today it has 70 students from 18 nationalities. As the French School marks its 30th anniversary, Nepali Times caught up with its director Joël Keller to ask him about the school and its future plans.
Nepali Times: Why a French School in Kathmandu?
Joël Keller: Some parents and teachers in Kathmandu felt that it was important for the French community in Nepal to offer French education to their children and to promote French language and culture with French style education here in Nepal. As most of the French families live in Nepal for a few years and then return to their home country, it was important to make sure that children could be integrated into the French education system wherever they went next, including those who returned to France.
Given your growth, it seems the need is even greater today.
Indeed, the need is even greater today and this trend continues. The French-speaking community in Nepal continues to grow as do families who value a multilingual education in an internationally accredited program. Families from Britain, US, India, China, Canada, Japan have also joined our school. We now teach children from age 2-15, with 70 students of more than 18 nationalities. 30% are French, 3% Nepali and the rest are from various nationalities. Only 30% of our students are French and 10% are French-speaking students from Canada, Belgium, or Switzerland. Our objective is not to attract only French-speaking students but various nationalities in a French-style education. Our core values remain the same: education with a family spirit. We now offer a CNED (Centre National d'Enseignement à Distance) program, which is a semi-structured distance education program.
Where do your alumni end up?
As the International French School of Kathmandu is part of the Agency for the French Education Abroad (AEFE), an official French network of about 500 French schools all over the world, students can join other schools when they finish their education. We offer language certification (both in French and English) to make sure that our students can be admitted in different systems without any difficulties. Our alumni are in France but also in India, USA, UK and elsewhere.
What has been your experience with students of Nepali parents?
The school has attracted increasing numbers of Nepali students in recent years. We have had Nepali parents who speak fluent French and those who don’t speak much. Children are amazing and quickly learn the French language. We are delighted that Nepali families are interested in a multilingual education.
What are the advantages of studying in French for Nepalis?
Studying in a French school is not only about learning the French language, it is also about participating in a French-style education: respect for age-appropriate development, quality of teaching, individualised support and openness to the world are major priorities of our school. The teaching team and all employees of the school focus on the children’s progress in all areas. Therefore, for Nepali families willing to give the best education to their children and the possibility of following higher studies abroad, International French School of Kathmandu is a fantastic option. Fees in French universities are about 10 times cheaper than in UK or USA. The French language is also an asset to work in an international context. More than 300 million people all over the world speak French, which is the second international language after English.
What are some of the extra-curricular activities you offer?
During school hours, we offer swimming, rock climbing and other sports. After classes, we teach pottery, sewing, judo, badminton, football, thangka painting, cooking, origami, music, theatre, photography, etc. We also take students on field trips within the Kathmandu Valley or outside to Chitwan or Bandipur to discover Nepali culture and enjoy outdoor activities.
Do you plan to help other schools with French?
French is offered in some schools, but it would be fantastic if more schools also did so. We have not supported French language classes outside, but plan to establish partnerships with Nepali schools and share more about France and French culture.
L'ecole francaise, Aarti Basnyat
French connection, Roma Aryal