An outstanding educational leader leads by example. They possess the knack of learning, have excellent communication skills, and are confident and radiate positivity. They always strive towards providing quality education and overall development of students.
One such innovative, passionate, and focused change leader in the field of education is Pratibha Jolly. She is the Principal of Miranda House, the premiere college for women at the University of Delhi. She started teaching at the institute in 1980 after gaining a Ph.D. in theoretical chemical physics from Delhi University. But she had always thought of opting for post-doctoral research. Pratibha saw scope of improvement in the lab work that was part of the curriculum. She used to tell herself “If you don’t like something, you have got to do something about it!” With financial support from the Department of Science and Technology, she launched a unique program called ‘Learning Through Investigative Projects’. It helped them to subvert the prevailing cookbook approach to laboratory work which was not teaching students either the skill of experimentation or the science behind it.
Eventually, Pratibha chose a Research Scientist post at the University Department to carry forward the work she had started. She took undergraduate students out of formal classroom to undertake innovative research project and help develop innovative resource materials, leveraging emerging computer-based technologies much before their use became the norm.
An Accomplished Educator
Pratibha’s work found international recognition. First, the Commonwealth Academic Staff Fellowship and then the American Physical Society Fellowship gave her an opportunity to work with leading Physics Education Research Groups in UK and USA. She was elected Chairperson of the International Commission on Physics Education (ICPE), Commission 14 of the apex International Union for Pure and Applied Physics (IUPAP) for six years. She also served as Vice President of IUPAP from 2005-2008. The high point of her tenure was launch of Physware series of active learning Educate the Educator workshops to strengthen teaching of physics, especially in the developing world.
Amongst several other awards, Pratibha has received the AUSAID grants as Australian Leadership Award Fellow (ALAF) 2013; GIREP (International Research Group on Physics Teaching) 50th Anniversary Medal in 2016; Indian Association of Physics Teachers (Delhi Chapter) Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016; and many more. She is Fellow of the prestigious Institute of Physics (IoP), UK and Science and Society Fellow of the National Academy of Sciences, India (NASI).
Transforming Challenges into Opportunities
Pratibha chose the path less taken. She quit her permanent job to take on a contractual position that allowed her to pursue her research interests. Mainstreaming pedagogic innovation and spearheading change was challenging task for her.
When she was asked to take charge as Principal of Miranda House in 2005, she was a bit skeptic. She saw herself foremost as a researcher. She felt that neither she had the requisite social skills nor the desire to do an administrative job. Pratibha accepted the challenge of scaling innovation in education. She realized that it was time to consider the whole college as a laboratory. Her experience in handling diverse projects helped her to create state-of-art infrastructure, establish a research culture and break silos to set new bench marks.
Pratibha has made synergetic contributions in the area of science education research and education outreach. Her multifaceted work has led to establishment of the D S Kothari Centre for Research and Innovation in Science Education at Miranda House. She is passionate about women in science and leadership roles, diverse student populations, and helping students build successful careers.
Pratibha is currently a member of the Executive Council of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC); National Academic Committee for supervision of National Children’s Science Congress, Department of Science and Technology; and many other organizations. She has served for several years from 2012 on the Scientific Advisory Committee to the Cabinet constituted by the principal scientific advisor to the Government of India.
About Miranda House
Miranda House evokes the image of a very special community of women, pioneers, and thought leaders, with significant achievements in all fields of social endeavor. As a college for liberal arts and basic sciences, it is known better for its academic standards, rich cultural activities, and the soft skills it imparts. It welcomes interaction with other educational organizations across the country, and occasionally with the world, actively engaging both men and women in all its extramural activities.
Towards the Future
Under the insightful leadership of Pratibha, the institute aims to provide students education that will address the grand challenges facing humanity. They motivate the students to channelize their time, energy, and creativity effectively, and aim at thoughtful engagement of students with society at large. This will become a benchmark of how successful and empowered they are. Miranda House has been known for the pioneering achievements of its alumnae. The institute wants to remain ahead of the curve and leap frog to the future of education and future of work.
Message for Students
Addressing the students, Pratibha states, “The future is yours to build. Set goals and take charge of your own learning and your own life. There are no shortcuts. Build a strong knowledge base enriched by deep thinking and meaningful action for the larger good of humanity”.