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Interview
An interview with 
Noel Daly-

Principal and head of business studies, Griffith College Ireland Karachi Campus

 

 

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Interview

Special Report

Aug 21 - 27, 2000

Griffith College is the largest independent college in Ireland. The Karachi Campus is an outreach facility or a branch of the college in Ireland, and it offers a totally European degree in Pakistan. The programmes offered include Computing Science, Business, Management, and Finance. The programmes are approved by both University Grants Commission (UGC), Pakistan, and the National Council for Educational Awards (NCEA), Ireland.

When Noel Daly first boarded a plane to Pakistan, he had little or no idea of the land he was going to. This was his first trip to the East and his first time in Asia. Clearly, life for Daly was going to be very different as Principal of Griffith College, Karachi. But it was a challenge he approached with a spirit of both adventure and determination. And for a man for whom "23 degree is a hot day," he's managing fairly well.

So here he is, a seemingly young 32, running an Irish college in the rather less benign climes of Pakistan. But Daly dismisses the age factor lightly: "If you're good enough for the job, you're old enough for the job". And going by the fabulous relationship he has managed to build up with his students during his one year here, Daly's age has been more an asset than a handicap. Students respond to his informal manner with rather less fear and more of a sense of responsibility. "To me my students aren't children, they are young adults. And that is the way I treat them and want them to behave."

Does Pakistan appear very different to you from Ireland?

Pakistan is a huge cultural experience for me. I have never seen another country like it. I come from a small Irish town called Cork with only 180,000 people almost a small Clifton. But Cork has a lot of industry MAC, Motorola, Pfizer and Johnson and Johnson all have a base there. In some ways I would say that the Pakistanis and the Irish have a lot of similarities. We have the same sense of humour, the same sense of sarcasm, and an ability to laugh at ourselves. The Irish don't take themselves overly seriously and neither do the Pakistanis. Also, I will say that both the Irish and the Pakistanis believe very strongly in family.

You started off life as an accountant, a CPA in fact you were one for ten years what made you steer towards an academic career?

Well accounting is an extremely rewarding career financially speaking. Let's just say you never see an unemployed accountant! Five years ago a friend asked me to teach a class. I was dead nervous at first. But once I stood up there I knew it was my true calling. So I withdrew from mainstream accountancy and went into teaching.

What do you think makes a good teacher?

To be a good teacher you have to be a good communicator. And I found that I have the ability to communicate. My style of teaching is not formal; it's very relaxed. I don't believe in sitting in a suite and reading from a book. I believe in giving a large part of the responsibility to the student. From what I have seen students here at first didn't understand the informality since they weren't used to it. But I've had an open door policy from day one. The students at Griffith know me on a first name basis and that's the way I like it. And after the initial hesitance, the students have responded warmly to the new way. Maybe some parents would like a stricter approach, but in Europe we believe in the development of the individual. We must give the students a sense of responsibility. They aren't children; they're young adults.

Do you find a difference between Irish and Pakistani students?

I must admit that I do find a difference. I think that a lot of Pakistan students are not coming from as strong an educational background. Frankly, the educational system here has to be caught from the throat and lifted up. But I have noticed that students here are very eager to improve themselves. Once you give them the benefits of a new system and a better education they respond extremely well. I'm proud to say that every student in Griffith passed his or her examinations this year. Same course as Ireland, same books and same grading system since all our papers are marked in Ireland. So we have a better record than even Griffith College, Ireland! I think there is a lot of hunger here amongst students for a good education.

The degrees offered by Griffith are largely IT and Business oriented, how do you find the female students are doing in what have traditionally been male fields?

Actually the female students at Griffith are among our brightest and best. They are very conscientious. It's nothing specifically Pakistani or Irish. Boys are more laid back all over the world and female students tend to take the lead. Actually if you look at our results the highest GPA in all the subjects we offer were achieved by women.

You've been lecturing at Griffith College, Dublin, the Munster Business Institute and the Academy of Public Relations in Ireland. But this is your first experience as a Principal. How have you adapted to this new found role?

Being a Principal has been a totally new experience for me. I work much longer hours now just to catch up with the administrative part of the job. It requires a great level of commitment but it's also a labour of love. I have the ability to manage people well and I'm not dictatorial or autocratic. I believe in my students and I have faith in my lecturers. Some lecturers were initially aloof because they were used to the old way of working but now they take interest in their students consistently. At Griffith you will see students sitting with lecturers in the Staff lounge and discussing issues. There is a cordial atmosphere between the teachers and the students. And that is where I believe true learning begins.

What do you think of the dozens of new colleges that have sprung up all over Pakistan?

In Pakistan a lot of colleges have sprung up that may be interested only in making money and cramming as many students into the place as they can. But at Griffith I've made sure the student is number one. They can come to me with opinions and I will listen to them. They can come to me with criticisms and I will listen to them. But I never want them to be scared of just walking in to my office. Otherwise how will I know what they need? My first year in College I was told that half of what you learn in the next four years won't come out of a textbook. And I sincerely believe that. That is why at Griffith we understand the need for a well-rounded education.

What do you do with the little spare time you have left over?

I'm a keen soccer player not good but keen. What cricket is to Pakistanis soccer is to Ireland. I'm in a Pakistani team called the Soccer Casuals and we play lots of young teams who run much faster than we can! I've also taken to squash since I've come here. In Ireland I was involved in Taekwondo but haven't had much opportunity to do it here.

So what has becoming Principal Griffith College, Karachi, meant to you in the larger scheme of things?

Ten years ago I was at a College reunion and like the other people around me I was walking down a normal sort of path. Ten years later I wake up in Karachi as Principal of Griffith College. If I can go back at the end of it all to Dublin and say I started something that I followed a different path and made the way for others to follow, then I will be more than satisfied. If I can look back many years from now and say that I was involved in building the reputation of a fine college then I will look back on this time and feel I have contributed something. Actually it's started already and watching Griffith and my students develop these are the things that make it all worthwhile.