11 Nov Kalpana Stories- Prof. Pratibha Jolly
“ Every time in life you will be faced with challenges. These challenges have different faces like financial difficulties, cultural burdens, language issues. I think we need to equip our students at an early age to change each challenge into an opportunity. Look at the problem at hand and keep on solving.
Especially girls will face dilemmas at every stage of life from personal choices to career choices. Keep on solving these problems. Each time you solve a problem you have attained a new milestone in life. Life keeps on evolving, it is your choice to evolve and adapt along. Someone may choose to lament, and someone chooses to overcome it. The choice is yours, make the most of your circumstances and keep growing and learning”, said Prof. Pratibha Jolly, Former Principal of Miranda House, the premier college for women at the University of Delhi (2005-2019). Prof. Jolly gained her Ph.D. in theoretical physics at the Chemical Physics from the University of Delhi and taught in Miranda House for eight years before joining the Department of Physics at the University of Delhi as a Research Scientist where she began work in the area of Physics Education Research and Curriculum Development. Her research interests include computational physics; electronic instrumentation; use of computer-based technologies in education; development of locally produced low-cost equipment; teacher training; cognitive aspects of students’ learning and diverse student populations. A major thrust has been to engage undergraduate students in the development of a package called Science Online consisting of an indigenous low-cost data-acquisition system and comprehensive set of sensor circuits for real-time measurements in multidisciplinary contexts. Her multifaceted work has led to the establishment in 2008 of the D S Kothari Centre for Research and Innovation in Science Education at Miranda House with generous funding from the Department of Science and Technology.
Under her guidance, she has seen hundreds of girls achieve their goals irrespective of their socioeconomic status. She has worked her entire life to create and develop a liberal education system. She believes that an education system should be an equalizer for students of all backgrounds. She believes in creating a system that will help a student build confidence, discover their passion in life. She says, “ We have to equip our girls to think independently. For that, as a principal of an institute, I aimed at creating experiences for bringing change. I managed to subvert the system and bring change. A student at times only needs a few life–changing experiences to help find their passion in life as well as the same applies in science. As a teacher, I enjoy creating such experiences”.
Society is built with different pillars. We have known that we need people who are good at every aspect such as we need statisticians as much as a molecular biologist. We need good doctors as much as we need good teachers. Prof. Jolly said, “ I don’t think there is a mantra for bringing change. One size does not fit all. You always have a few students who are completely driven and go for their goals. While some students have to be motivated to identify their goals and are to be given resources for pursuing them. India is a linear country; we need to make sure that we do not force students to make early choices. That is disastrous. There is no need for early specialization. We should have broad–based education with exposure to the diversification of subjects”.
So, her suggestion to students and especially young girls is that have an in–depth understanding of the subject you want to pursue. In today’s world, all skills are required. She says, “ Let me give you an example. You want to develop experimental as well as theoretical skills in physical sciences. Botha re need to strike the balance and advance in the field. A strong understanding of this will allow you to become a good researcher or a teacher in physical sciences. Science is evidence-based, and you have to understand all subjects if you want to excel. We need to teach our students this. Pedagogies spoken about project–based learning allows one to achieve this. Project–based learning creates an inclusive learning environment. Also, on other note do not be intimidated by any lack of information. But yearn to learn and develop skills that you want. The world has a place for everybody. But we want people to come into sciences and help them within science to find their passion”.
She added “Life is about optimizing with what you get. Evolve and adapt. Do not get demotivated by compromises if you have to make them. It is okay to be kind of yourselves and do not fall into the clutches of the imposter syndrome. Resilience and adaptiveness will help you find alternative paths. Always remember that each experience in life is enriching. It teaches you something, you have to be receptive to understand it. Inherent depth in you will help you create a new life for yourself”. She strongly believes that everyone has a place in this world. Focusing on work is important to carve your path. In India, at the university level in present times students come from diverse backgrounds and she thinks that universities should create a vibrant learning space for all such students who have overcome multiple hurdles either personal or financial or cultural to reach this stage. She says, “ Students are like a sponge. They will absorb the knowledge you give them. As teachers and administrators, we need to create learning experiences to develop the students. Peer learning is the best. Let students learn from each other experiences. Give students the feel of real education world”. She is extremely glad to serve as an advisor to VigyanShaala International who is trying to create such learning experiences.
Author- Dr. Arti Dumbrepatil, Science Writer/Communicator.Co-lead and chief communicator for Program Kalpana of VigyanShaala International