July 18, 2024

Late Dr. Madhuriben Shah

Our people on the Hills

We feel honoured and proud to write about Late Dr Madhuriben Shah (1919 to 1989), resident of our Hills, an illustrious and highly accomplished lady, she was a nationally and internationally acclaimed educationist. She was honoured with the Padma Shri award by the Government of India in the year 1977.

She was born in Ranpur, Gujarat, in 1919, and attended the Alexandra Girls’ English Institute in Bombay before graduating with honors in Mathematics from St. Xavier’s College, University of Mumbai.

She completed her B.T. Degree in Education from Secondary Teachers Training College, Mumbai. Later she stood first in her M.Ed class at the University of Mumbai. She earned a Ph.D. in Education from the Institute of Education, London.

Dr Madhuriben Shah’s work in the field of education is very vast. In this article we would primarily write about the significant role she played in public education.

She worked as the Education Officer of the Bombay Municipal Corporation. From 1975 to 1981 she was the Vice-Chancellor of SNDT University, Bombay, and in 1981 went on to become the Chairman of University Grants Commission, New Delhi. In 1972 she was elected as International President of the World Education Fellowship, London.

Madhuriben as she was respectfully called will always be remembered as an educationist par excellence. Her treasured memories will live on! Her life has been documented in the book, ‘Harmony: Glimpses in the life of Madhuri R. Shah’, published in 1985, containing several of her interviews.

Being essentially a researcher and a post graduate teacher she then took up Education Officer’s post in the Bombay Municipal Corporation. She was asked this question by the Public Service Commission as to why from the post of a post graduate teacher or a director of the Institution she wanted to be an administrator. Her answer was that she would die a very frustrated and unhappy person if the researches she had done were going to be rotting on the shelves of the libraries of the University and nothing would be implemented to change the face of education. For her being able to enrich the lives of so many children would be a satisfying experience.

She was an optimistic person with a spontaneous sense of humour, and she used this attitude to handle complex problems. She wrote a book containing one hundred games which you can play in the last 10 minutes in the class which would consolidate what children had learnt but at the same time make learning an enjoyable experience.

In one of her interviews she said “I was always excited about what I was doing. My life has been striving to create new awareness in the community and when I succeeded in arousing it, I never continued with it, I gave it away to the second person who was to strengthen it. I helped people to grow and develop and left them to work independently.

Dr. Madhuriben Shah was not just a great educational administrator but also an eminent scholar, researcher, and producer of innovative reading material for children. As Vice-Chancellor of SNDT Women’s University Bombay, she was responsible for giving an entirely new orientation to the university. And as the Chairperson of the University Grants Commission she emerged as an innovator who boldly identified elements that democratized universities for improving the quality of education.

Dr. Madhuriben Shah had numerous opportunities to take up postings in other countries because of her international presence in the field of education. She had noticed that there were many challenges in India, particularly in Mumbai, where she worked. She stayed in India saying there’s no better place in the world than our own country when you want to feel like you’re making a meaningful contribution while getting satisfaction from what you do. She did put in lot of efforts when she worked in BMC facing challenging difficulties and made significant contribution in civic school education system.

We would like to mention the significant impact of the new program Dr Madhuri-ben introduced in the BMC School feeding system which was only possible due to her excellent administrative skills. Earlier it was only those children who were weak and sick who were given a bottle of milk by BMC. She initiated a contract with CARE and with the milk powder which BMC got from them they were able to give 3,00,000 to 4,00,000 children a bottle of milk everyday with sweet buns. The production of bakery was only enough to meet the needs of 2,50,000 children. So the remaining 1,50,000 children were given a packet of peanuts. For some children this was a major meal of protein diet which they had during the day.

Always interested in well being of the physically and mentally challenged children, she is said to have started the first free school for the mentally challenged and later set up the first department for graduate and post graduate training of the teachers for them at the SNDT Women’s University. She also started the first teaching aid centre at the BMC, first such one in the country. Later she also served as President of the Fellowship of Physically Handicapped (FPH) from 1978 to 1984.

Aside from her outstanding academic achievements, she has written over 200 books on topics such as Educational Administration, Education and Finance, Psychology, Educational Measurement, Testing and Evaluation, Mathematics, Language Learning, Continuing Education, and Innovative Learning Materials in Mathematics, Science, and Languages.

In 1969, Dr. Madhuriben founded Hansraj Jivandas College of Education. In 1954, she also established the Educational and Vocational Counselling Unit at the Gujarat Research Society in Bombay.

Dr. Madhuriben, was a visionary and a staunch advocate for education, she fought hard and went against convention to stand up for her convictions.

In 1979, she established Jasudben M.L School and pioneered the ‘Project Method’ of teaching-learning, which was well ahead of its time. She felt that learning should be multifaceted, because each kid is an individual whose full potential can and must be realized.

It is difficult to find people like Madhuri-ben with such strong convictions and the ability to carry them forward.

We thank Dr Usha Thakkar, Harshaben Parekh and SNDT library staff for providing us information on Dr Madhuriben Shah.


(By Editorial Committee of ‘The Voice of Malabar Hills”)