Dr. Mona Suri
Dr. Mona Suri, Associate Professor, is the Academic Vice President at Royal University for Women (RUW), PFHEA, Higher Education Academy, UK, with a teaching experience of more than 31 years. She completed her studies in Fabric and Apparel Science from Delhi University, India. She has been actively involved in research and teaching and has successfully supervised six PhD and 45 Master’s students. She has many publications, presentations and awards to her credit.
Dr. Mona Suri was teaching at Lady Irwin College, Delhi University, New Delhi, for twenty years and joined the Royal University for Women in September 2008 and in the last thirteen years, has been contributing the academic and corporate life of RUW. Before taking up the role of Academic Vice President she was the Dean for College of Art & Design for over six years.
In these Pandemic times, increasing focus on the education, the role at the academic institutes with maintaining the standards of their teaching, Mr. J. B. Soma, Hon. Asso. Editor & Publisher of JTA, took the opportunity to have the deliberation with her on the Educational Leadership and the Pandemic.
Q.: What will be the main consideration of educational Leadership?
Ans.: Leadership is about who you are as well as what you the characters of a good leader do are evident during crisis and unforeseen circumstances. In the field of education it is even more critical as multiple stakeholders are involved ranging from students, parents, faculty members, administrative support staff employers, alumnae and advisory boards.
In my opinion, Agility is the most important consideration of Educational leadership. In addition, flexibility, good communication, collaboration and showing empathy to the teams are also very important characteristics of an educational leader.
Q.; What is expected from the educators in responding to the challenges of the pandemic?
Ans.: All educators faced challenging circumstances due to recent Pandemic. Closure of university premises lead to suspension of classes. The most important challenges were ensuring safety and wellbeing of all stakeholders, continuity of operations and maintaining academic standards. All educational institutions had to resort to alternate methods of delivery and most importantly switching from face to face to online mode in a very short span of time.
In my opinion, while responding to the pandemic, the academic leader, in any institution, should balance the Health and safety requirements with teaching and learning environment as per the suggested model below:
The following need to be addressed by educators to respond to any pandemics/ challenging situations:
- Effective Crisis Management
- Maintaining Academic Continuity
- Engagement of students with online environment
- Preparedness of faculty members at all times
- Adequacy of both human and ICT resources
- Seeking regular feedback from all stakeholders
- Timely action based on the situation, feedback and resources
Q.: Which leadership model will help to improve the practice strength and develop the knowledge in challenging circumstances?
Ans.: Leadership choices range from Bureaucratic, democratic, autocratic, participatory, visionary etc. Leadership style should fit well in the environment and prevailing conditions. The right kind of leadership approach needed during challenging situations is Participatory, Delegative, and Collaborative with flexibility that allows people to look at things from all perspectives. The leader may have much strength but may not have all, hence it is important to build up a team that has all and can manage the situations well. Effective and regular communication internally and externally is required (with students, faculty members, support staff, Advisory Boards, employers and Regulatory bodies) at all times.
Q.: What are the Educational responses to the pandemic with positive and negative features?
Ans.: The educational responses to pandemic were a mixed bag. On the positive side Virtual Learning was the most important feature, where both educators and students adapted beautifully to the challenge of closure of educational institutions and lack of face to face teaching. In addition, active learning, appropriate use of technology in the classroom, availability of Plugins for virtual teaching, e resources of library, timely capacity building of staff and students to deal with challenges, emotional maturity and agility exhibited by students, teachers and parents are also worth mentioning.
On the negative side lack of engagement, non-availability of technology to all students, anxiety about classes, inadequate level of training for students and teachers, heavy workloads, inappropriate course design (for online teaching) and faculty fatigue, need to be considered objectively for future considerations.
Q.: What will be your thoughts for implicating the education to take forward, after the pandemic is over?
Ans.: In my opinion the online teaching is here to stay. The hybrid form of teaching and learning can have lots of advantages for both educational institutions (from effective use of Infrastructure, space, hiring of competent International faculty, online guest lectures from industry etc.) as well as for students (flexibility of learning, anytime- anywhere teaching and learning, use of technology etc.).
In order to effectively use this as an opportunity the educational institutions must invest in training needs of Faculty and Students, use active teaching methods for effective engagement with students, use of appropriate online assessment methods, effective use of learning management systems (Moodle/ BigBlueButton/ Zoom etc.). In this transition the role of Regulatory Bodies in establishing and implementing norms of hybrid teaching and Educational Leadership will be critical.
Q.: How the Digitizing of Technological Teacher Education and Professional Development is providing the support, strategies for adapting to the change?
Ans.: Digitizing of Education and Professional Development has opened new horizons to support education after the pandemic. In the last two years, to meet the needs of the ‘New Normal’ there have been changes in content of the curricula offered, mode of deliveries and assessment. Academic institutions are revisiting the way they are teaching and do that effectively the faculty members and student’s capacities must be built through training and professional development. For this endeavor many organizations are offering online bridging programmes, small bytes of new knowledge, and digital badges for students and faculty on knowledge and skill based concepts. It is imperative that to efficiently adapt to this change all academic institution strategize, allocate resources and provide the necessary support.
Q.: What is your opinion on the new Educational Policy, Indian Govt. has announced for the implantation? Will it be advantage or disadvantage to the academics?
Ans.: As per the NEP 2020, Skill gap exists in all sectors including IT, manufacturing, pharma and Infrastructure. Thus there is an emphasis on Skill enhancement- Right skillets amongst students and restructuring the Educational ecosystem. This emphasis on developing technical as well as soft skills will lead to holistic learning through multidisciplinary approach and stress on vocational education. In addition the students will have the option of exiting at different levels with qualifications certificate in the form of a degree or diploma. In my view, the NEP 202 is a very progressive initiative in line with the International norms that will benefit the students and India as a country.
Q.: How can be attracted the overseas students in the Indian Educational Institutes?
Ans.: Educational tourism is a very popular concept that all the countries are adopting to attract the student body that will ensure revenues to their economies. For Indian Educational Institutes to attract more students firstly it is important the Qualifications offered are internationally accredited and recognized. This will give the credibility to the Indian degrees offered and will ensure international acceptance. Secondly, the academic Institutes must ensure that travel and Visa requirements for International students are handled efficiently for a smooth experience. Thirdly the student experience about co-curricular activities, student life and experiential learning should be as per international norms. India has a very rich heritage, breathtaking locations, beautiful tourist attractions that are bound to impress the students who decide to study in India. In my opinion it is important that this initiative is steered at the National level with all required policies, procedures and framework for effective implementation.