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“Enjoy your learning and be happy…”, says Dr. S. Kumudhavalli

“… only then will it be effective.” Dr. S. Kumudhavalli, Principal – S. P. N. Doshi Women’s College, Ghatkopar, offers her message to students in an interview with Shraddha Kamdar

H.W. Longfellow once wrote: “In character, in manner, in style, in all things, the supreme excellence is simplicity.” What better than a though like this to describe this principal who has been heading a women’s college for over 21 years, has seen all the changes, and yet aspires to empower her students to better versions of themselves day in and day out. That’s one of the special characteristics of Dr. S. Kumudhavalli, Principal – S. P. N. Doshi Women’s College, Ghatkopar, who believes that students can learn from all experiences bon in and out of the classroom.

Talking of different experiences the afternoon I went to meet her, the dynamic leader talks of a textile exhibition her students had held earlier that morning. They had embroidered stuff, designed the best out of waste materials, sourced textiles and created usable and pretty items. “It is a part of their practical learning, so why not? Let them go through such processes, and understand how business is conducted and pick up a few entrepreneurship skills in doing so. They have done all the hard work themselves! Basically, what I am hinting at is that the chalk and talk method alone is not going to be attractive any more for the students, unless different teaching methods are applied,” she says.

Dr. Kumudhavalli then mentions that to supplement the chalk and talk method technology should be used more than usual. She mentions that her college has tried using the blended learning method, using online teaching and learning tools, and it has turned out to be successful, even though they are still in the experimenting mode. She also mentions ideas on self learning for the students, and how they do a wonderful job in researching their topics and presenting the findings to the class. “They come up with unexpected facts and material related to their topics and go beyond our expectations, especially students of the self-financed courses. I feel that e should provide a taste of such learning to the students, so that they can then further it on their own.”

For other methods to train students differently and take them beyond the syllabus, Dr. Kumudhavalli says that there are specialised training programmes that students can undergo. Her college conducts a few such trainings, like a six-day course by the Bombay Stock Exchange (BSE) for the commerce students which ends with a field visit to the BSE. “This provides the students with stimulation”, she says.

While I am enamoured listening to her at the various ways in which students can be engaged, I bring her back to the realities of the academic word – the fight for marks. Should students be encouraged to fight for marks so much? Dr. Kumudhavalli’s perspective is that students should have a decent percentage as an entry point into anything new, especially for their choice of college for further admission to education courses. They should give their best to acquire at least the minimum they need and then be relieved. After all, there are to be some way to decide the merit of the students, and in a country like ours, it is done through marks.

“I often tell parents also that after a certain point, no one asks how much a student scored in a particular exam. How student work later, however, matters a lot. That’s why I say that a decent score is needed. You see, even for placements, the first criterion for most of the known companies is that the student should have a first class. It doesn’t mean the student should be a rank holder or score 90%, but just show that the student has the capacity to secure a decent score at the university examination,” the vibrant principal offers her opinion.

Moving over marks, we get to talking of women’s education and the changes she has seen in her long and rich span as the leader of the college. “There is a definite change. When I became principal over 21 years ago, the situation was such that it was a challenge for us to get the students to even complete their graduation. They were just waiting to be engaged and get married. There was no motivation to finish the course and gain the degree. Today, they want to finish, and want to go to work,” she says.

Over the years, Dr. Kumudhavalli says that the college recognised the need for training in employability skills, and they now conduct these workshops in conjunction with multinationals, which do this as part of their CSR activities. Students undergo a total of hundred hours of intensive training after college lectures where they are trained in skills like facing an interview, carrying themselves, writing a CV, improving their English and so on. The principal says that there is a dynamic change among the students after this training. It has helped in building their confidence to a great extent, even for those students who do not opt for jobs or interviews.

“You see, the students in our college come from such strata that they have their own limitations. I have many students who are first generation learners and not only they but their parents are also eager to educate them in search of a better life. Earlier, our students would not be open to going outside to work, in fact I used to joke with them that they will be happy with securing a job within our college itself! That was their comfort zone. But now, we have placed a few students with Infosys and Cognizant, so the students will go to Bengaluru and Pune. This is a change, even if it is a slow one,” she says, admitting that even today, she does face some of the same old problems where students want to drop out and not finish the degree. Or that they want to while away their time looking for love rather than build anything concrete with their education. Or worse still, they take up a job offer through the campus placements and leave after a few months, when the college is not even aware of what has happened since the student is not in touch with the college. The positive end, however, that these problems are diminishing in number.

As we stagger towards the end of the interview, I ask her for her message to our student readers. “Enjoy your learning and be happy, otherwise it is of no use. If you love it you will do very well and it will be effective.” In addition, she has something for the teachers as well: “The days are changing. New teachers as well as old ones should be open to dealing with students, but understand that there as a fine line between teachers and students. Even through the days of the guru are over, we should not progress straight towards backslapping. A teacher needs to create respect which comes on its own, not due to fear.”

Original: http://www.freepressjournal.in/education/enjoy-your-learning-and-be-happy-says-dr-s-kumudhavalli/989455
By: Shraddha Kamdar
Posted: December 19, 2016, 11:09 am