Ratna Ghosh 


Short Biography & Significant Contribution

Ratna Ghosh was born and brought up within a multicultural milieu in Shillong, a beautiful hill station in the Eastern Hills of India where the majority population is from the Khasi tribe, quite distinct from mainstream Indian cultural and religious groups.  An indigenous group whose language belongs to the Austroasiatic group of languages, the Khasis are largely Christian of many denominations.  The big difference from the rest of India is that the Khasi people follow the matrilineal system of descent and inheritance. Classified under the Indian Constitution as a Scheduled Tribe they are now among the most educated groups in India. Although she is not a Khasi herself, Ghosh grew up in a milieu where women were educated and powerful. Shillong was particularly famous for its private schools and missionary hospitals. The influence of English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh run institutions was great. Her father was a well-known ophthalmic surgeon and as a child she travelled extensively within India and also in Europe.  Ghosh and her sister went to elementary school for a year in England and lived in France for a brief period. All these experiences in her childhood guided by her mother’s ambition for her two daughters raised her expectations about future professional work.

Her doctoral supervisor, Dr. R.F. Lawson’s encouragement perked her interest in the field of comparative education. The late Professor Douglas Ray also played a mentoring role for Ratna Ghosh and introduced her to Latin America through research grants. He invited Ghosh as co-editor of the 1987 book Social Change and Education in Canada, and the publication became a great success. The book went to three editions and was widely used in Canadian universities. This book project led to other projects in Latin America, specifically Mexico where the resourcefulness and networks of Ghosh’s friend, Norma Tarrow, now Emeritus Professor enabled her to broaden her own contacts. Professor Ghosh is on the Editorial Board of several international journals.

Significant Contribution

Ratna Ghosh has contributed to scholarship on women in general and more specifically on gender and education.  She has also worked on women in non-traditional fields like Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). This work has been done mainly through her position as Chair (2003-2008, Committee on the Advancement of Women in Scholarship, Royal Society of Canada - RSC) and was aimed at policies to attract nominations of women scientists. She has given public and community lectures in this area, both nationally and internationally, to discuss the problem of promotion and retention of women in STEM fields. She was invited to give the keynote speech for a Workshop on Women Crossing Borders: Women in Science, Engineering and Technology organized by the Royal Society of London, l'Academie de France and the Royal Society of Canada in July 2003. This meeting, held at the Royal Society of London building, was attended by well-known scientists from academia and industry. She has always been involved in activities on women, development and education in countries of the South. In 2012, she was nominated and elected as a Fellow to The World Academy of Sciences (TWAS)- for the Enhancement of Science in the Developing World.

Her research has focused on the impact of ‘difference’ (specifically gender, ethnicity and culture) on identity development and the educational achievements of youth who are ‘different’ from the norm in society and societal institutions such as schools.  One of the markers of difference (especially since 9/11) has been religion. She has turned her focus on how education may be unwittingly contributing to youth disenchantment with Western society, so that they are attracted to violence and the messages of extremism.  She thinks education can play an important role in countering extremism that leads to terrorism and she plans on concentrating on this area of research in the coming years.

Ghosh has mentored and continues to mentor several doctoral students and post-doctoral fellows.  She did not have a minority woman as a role model in academia. Hence, she feels very responsible as a role model for young women academics from minority racial and ethnic backgrounds working in the field of comparative education. 

Educational Background

Schooling in Loreto Convent, Shillong
BA (Hons in English Literature), Loreto College, Calcutta University
MA in Comparative Education, University of Calgary
PhD in Comparative Education, University of Calgary
Higher Local Certificate in Pianoforte, Trinity College of Music, London.


Currently she holds two endowed Chairs:
Distinguished James McGill Professor, McGill University and Sir W.C.Macdonald Professor of Education
Full Professor, 1988
President, Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute, 1988-90
President, CIES, 2011-12

Ratna Ghosh is Distinguished James McGill Professor, and William C. Macdonald Professor of Education at McGill University in Montreal, Canada’s most celebrated university. She was President of the Comparative and International Education Society in 2012. Ghosh was the first female Dean (1998-2004) of the Faculty of Education at McGill University and has held several administrative positions such as Acting Director of McGill International. She was President of the Shastri Indo-Canadian Institute (SICI)—a bi-national organization of major Indian and Canadian universities involved in academic exchanges and programs between the two countries. She was Resident Director of SICI in Delhi, and later elected its President.

Ghosh was elected to Canada’s National Academy as a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada, F.R.S.C. (1999). She was the first woman of Indian origin to receive the national civic decoration as a Member of the Order of Canada, C.M. (2000).  A similar honour followed from the Quebec Government and when she was inducted as an Officer of the Order of Quebec, O.Q. (2005). A Full Member of the European Academy of Arts, Sciences and Humanities in Paris since 1999, she was elected to TWAS – The World Academy Sciences – for the advancement of science in developing countries (Social Sciences Division) in 2011. 

Among numerous awards from national and international organizations, Ghosh has earned the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award (1996); the Canadian Bureau of International Education’s Leadership in Internationalization of Education Award (2002); and jointly with her husband (Dr. Ashok Vijh) the Indo-Canada Chamber of Commerce’s Lifetime/Outstanding Achievement Award (2008).  She was selected for the “Power List” of the most influential Indo-Canadians published by India Abroad (2009). In 2015 she was awarded the Hind Rattan Award (Jewel of India) given to people of Indian origin in the diaspora. She was honored with distinguished alumni award in 2016 by the University of Calgary.

Ghosh’s contributions to the area of diversity and education have been most significant over the course of her career. Time magazine recognized her contributions in a Canadian Edition (October 13, 2003) of its magazine with a full page feature article on Ratna Ghosh as one of “Canada’s Best” in Education.  In January 2004, McGill University appointed her James McGill Professor (Endowed University Professorship) in recognition of her work in diversity, which was renewed for a second term as she continued to hold another endowed Chair, the W.C. Macdonald Professor in Education. In 2018, she was appointed Distinguished James McGill Professor, and in 2019, she was awarded the CIES Honorary Fellows for her most marked contributions to growth in the field.

Website: https://www.mcgill.ca/dise/ratna-ghosh

CONTRIBUTED BY: Mousumi Mukherjee, PhD

Date Contributed: 2 May 2019


Schooling in Loreto Convent, Shillong

BA (Hons in English Literature), Loreto College, Calcutta University

MA in Comparative Education, University of Calgary

PhD in Comparative Education, University of Calgary


Higher Local Certificate in Pianoforte, Trinity College of Music, London.