Education Professor Conducts Research with Bhutanese-Nepali Immigrants
NEWARK, Ohio, April 6, 2017 – What started out as community service has become the subject of research for Associate Professor of Education Binaya Subedi, Ph.D. His work with Bhutanese-Nepali immigrants in northern Columbus addresses the complicated issues of personal identity, poverty and prejudice.
“In the beginning it was more about service and helping them adapt to the United States,” said Subedi. “Then I realized this might be a way to write about their stories and help people understand who they are.”
His interest in the community extends from his ability to speak their language, Nepali, and some shared sense of their culture. However, Subedi emphasizes that he is much more of an outsider than an insider of the community. The older generation was born in Bhutan and evicted by their government in the 1990s. The younger generation was born in refugee camps in Nepal where the elders settled for nearly 20 years. Now they’re trying to adapt to life in yet another country.
Subedi was born in Nepal and came to the United States at age 18 to pursue a college education. He has a B.S. from Culver Stockton College, an M.A. from Slippery Rock University and Ph.D. from The Ohio State University.
“There are up to 20,000 Bhutanese-Nepali in the Columbus area,” said Subedi. “I’m interested in how to help communities that are in very complicated, challenging circumstances. They are economically underprivileged people who work for a living, but at the same time don’t have to the linguistic ability to understand how this society works.”
It’s the story of many cities of refugees in the United States. As the people strive to find their place and sense of belonging in a new settlement, Subedi’s commitment is to help the youth in this community graduate high school and get into college. “Some of the students from the community have visited Ohio State Newark. The Newark campus has been really helpful in opening opportunities for them,” he said.
It isn’t an easy feat, however. Many of the parents, who lack a formal education themselves, value education for their children but are faced with the reality of living in poverty. Children with better English language skills are able to find, and keep, better employment. Children also take on responsibilities, such as reading bills and contracts, as young as 12 years old. There is a complex trade-off between working to care for their family and going to school. “Even in high school, they’re working so much that college is fading away,” said Subedi.
The other hindrance is what Subedi calls the “model minority” stereotype. “Whenever I talk about Asian students here in the United States, there is a perception of the model minority. Asians are glamorized as being smart. There is an expectation that Asian students will do well in math and science. Then you talk about the community I’m working with who historically have not had education. They’re Asian, but they have incredible academic challenges.”
Part of overcoming those academic challenges is educating the teachers. “Teaching is a very big part of my commitment to being here. I invest in a democratic kind of education so that we create people in society who are active and informed and want to change society,” said Subedi. “Dialogue and different perspectives are the thrust of my classroom. If you can understand where people are coming from because of their different histories and experiences, it creates great conversations which will eventually make a more democratic society.”
Subedi specializes in global education and the immigrant aspect of education. He teaches the following education courses: Application of Development in Learning Contexts, Equity and Diversity in Education, Teaching and Learning of Social Studies Grades Pre-K – 3, and Social Studies Methods for Preservice Middle Childhood Teachers.
There are three undergraduate education majors that can completed at Ohio State Newark: Early Childhood Education, Middle Childhood Education, and Child and Youth Studies. Ohio State Newark also offers a Master of Arts in Integrated Teaching and Learning.
The Ohio State University at Newark offers an academic environment that’s challenging but supportive with world-renowned professors and access to Ohio State’s more than 200 majors. It’s where learning comes to life. Research, study abroad and service learning opportunities prepare students for their careers in ways they never expected.