Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rabindranath Tagore: his educational philosophy

Tagore attracts all and always !!

As a child, he had the same suffering with his school education 
as any child of a common school today. 

He struggled to find a way to educate himself. 

Matured as a person, he was full of love for all around him, 
with a creativity, which was all his own. 

'Yeats' observed: 
"Tagore was the product of a whole people, a whole civilization, 
immeasurably strange to us."
This strange phenomenon compels us to look at his model of education.

Studying his model of education is more relevant today;
when we find that our present day education is rolling out humans as insects and robots: 
specialized for a particular function, nil in all other attributes we call humane.

There lies the root of almost all ills of our human community, which demands 
more human sensitivity in this changing age of universality !!

1. Tagore was born on 7th May 1861 in Bengal (India) in a prosperous family.
Rabindranath Tagore 
by William Rothenstein. 
Courtesy:British Museum.
2. At primary level his father provided him education in Sanskrit language, Indian philosophy & Astronomy.
3. For higher education he was sent to Bengal Academy where in he developed an aversion to prevalent dull and rigid education.
4. He was then sent to England where in he left it and further studied on his own. He gradually started writing in magazines etc.
5. He turned into a poet, dramatist, philosopher and painter. He as then awarded the title of Gurudev.
6. He got the Nobel Prize as he translated Gitanjali in English.
7. The British Indian government awarded him with the degree of Doctorate in 1915 which he eventually gave away after the Jalyanwala Bagh incident.
8. He established Vishwa Bharti on 22nd September 1921, whose aim was to create a synthesis of east and west.
9. He died in 1941.

Rabindranath Tagore 
as Baul in Phalguni, 1916. 
Painting by Abanindranath Tagore.
Photo: Mukul Dey Archiv
A chronology in nutshell:
  1. Born: May 7, 1861, Kolkata
  2. Died: August 7, 1941, Kolkata
His literary and educational pursuit:
1. Rabindranath composed his first poem at age eight,
and by the end of his life, had written over:
2. twenty-five volumes of poetry,
3. fifteen plays,
4. ninety short stories,
5. eleven novels,
6. thirteen volumes of essays,
7. initiated and edited various journals,
8. prepared Bengali textbooks,
9. kept up a correspondence involving thousands of letters,
10. composed over two thousand songs; and –
11. after the age of seventy – created more than two thousand pictures and sketches.
12. He dedicated forty years of his life to his educational institution at Santiniketan, West Bengal. Rabindranath’s school contained a children’s school as well as a university known as Visva-Bharati and a rural education Centre known as Sriniketan.

Philosophy of Tagore:
1. As a Vedantist: He had a firm belief in the philosophy of veda. He believed in “I am Brahma”. There is a spiritual bond between man and man. As an Individualist: he believed in giving right type of freedom to individual. Every individual is unique.
2. As an Idealist: He believed that the man should live for the ultimate truth which liberates us from from cycle of birth and death. Had faith in absolute values.
3. As a Spiritualist: He believed that every individual should try to attain spiritual perfection.
4. As a Humanist: He preached human brotherhood, having faith in fundamental unity of mankind. He remarked that "even God depends upon man for perfecting his Universe."
5. As a Naturalist: He considered nature as a great teacher. God revealed himself through various forms, colors and rhythm of nature.
6. Tagore’s Internationalism: He was an ardent prophet of world unity. He believed in world brotherhood

Tagore and education:
Tagore's concerns with education were a constant theme throughout his life and surfaced in his writings, speeches, debates, and in the establishment of Santiniketan and Sriniketan. (His contributions as an educationist are prolific and profound and exploring them can be the work of a lifetime.)

1. Rabindranath Tagore went to school almost 150 years ago and it is both interesting and tragic to note how his experiences were not vastly different from those of the average school going child of today. Barring a few lucky handfuls, generations of children have undergone the same drudgery of dull text books, uninterested teachers, rote learning, examinations and mindless discipline that Tagore endured.
The descriptions of his skirmishes with the education system a century and a half ago, ring true till this day:
In the usual course I was sent to school, but possibly my suffering was unusual, greater than that of most other children. The non-civilized in me was sensitive: it had a great thirst for color, for music, for the movement of life. Our city-built education took no heed of that living fact. It had its luggage van waiting for branded bales of marketable result.
The relative proportion of the non-civilized and civilized in man should be in the proportion of water and land on our globe, the former predominating. But the school had for its object a continual reclamation of the non-civilized.

pic courtesy:http://
2. The Parrot's Training (Tota Kahini), a short story written by Tagore, is another entertaining and incisive look at education - one that many of us can easily identify with.
Once upon a time there was a bird. It was ignorant. It sang all right but never recited scriptures. It hopped pretty frequently but lacked manners. Said the Raja to himself: 'Ignorance is costly in the long run. For fools consume as much food as their betters, and yet give nothing in return.
He called his nephews to his presence and told them that the bird must have a sound schooling. The pundits were summoned, and at once went to the root of the matter. They decided that the ignorance of birds was due to their natural habit of living in poor nests. 

3. Rabindranath Tagore, by his efforts and achievements, is part of a global network of pioneering educators, such as Rousseau, Pestalozzi, Froebel, Montessori and Dewey–and in the contemporary context, Malcolm Knowles–who have striven to create non-authoritarian learning systems appropriate to their respective surroundings. In a poem that expresses Tagore’s goals for international education, he writes:
Where the mind is without fear
and the head is held high,
Where knowledge is free;
Where the world has not been broken
up into fragments by narrow domestic
Where words come out from the
depth of truth;
Where tireless striving
stretches its arms towards
Where the clear stream of reason
has not lost its way into the
dreary desert sand of dead habit;
Where the mind is led forward
by thee into ever-widening
thought and action–
into that heaven of freedom,
my Father,
Let my country awake.

Concept of education:
According to Tagore, “God reveals himself through nature more effectively than through man made institutions. Hence ,the education of the child should be under natural surroundings so that he develops love for all things around him.” 
According to Tagore, "That education is highest which not only imparts information and knowledge to us, but also promotes love and follow feeling between us and the living beings of the world.” 

Aims of education:
1. Physical development: To include activities like swimming, diving, climbing trees, plucking flowers, etc. Mental Development: Acc to Tagore "In comparison with bookish learning, knowing the real living directly is true education. It not only promotes the acquiring of some knowledge but develops the curiosity & faculty of learning and knowing so powerfully that no class room teaching can match it.”
2. Moral & Spiritual Development: Education should strive for a number of moral and spiritual qualities like self discipline, tolerance, courtesy and inner freedom.
3. Development of all faculties: Chief aim of education should be the drawing out of the latent faculties of the child. To him a child is more important than himself problems hence he opposed the crushing of the child's individuality. Hence he should be given full freedom.
4. International Brotherhood: Though Tagore was a individualist yet he believed in socialism, internationalism. Acc to Tagore individual should develop to the fullest extent and then he should contribute his best to the promotion of international welfare.

1.Subjects: Literature and languages, Mother tongue, other Indian Languages and other foreign languages; Mathematics; Natural sciences such as Botany, zoology, physics, chemistry, general science; health education; Social Sciences like geography, history, civics, economics, and Sociology; Agriculture and Technical Subjects; Arts, Music, Dance etc.; Philosophy; Psychology and Religion Broad-based Curriculum
2. Activities and Occupations: Dancing, Dramatics, Music, Games and Sports, Drawing and Painting, Excursions, Agriculture and Gardening, Regional Study, Laboratory work Social Service.
3. Actual living and Community Service Broad-based Curriculum

Teaching Methodology:
1. Teaching by Walking; The mind in the class room does not remain active Hence by walking the mind remains active & awake, hence the child easily grasp things. Teaching by walking is the best method of education.
2. Discussion & Question Answer; Real education is based on real problems of life hence question - answer method is effective wherein the teacher put the questions & ask the students to participate in discussions. Thus they gain essential knowledge.
3. Activity Method; This method is of great importance because it activates all the faculties of the body & mind. In Vishwa Bharti, he made compulsory the learning of handicraft. He allowed any physical exercise or activity even during the class teaching.

Qualities of Teacher:
1. Tagore gave an important place to teachers and asked them to carry out the following activities.
2. Believing in purity and in his own experiences, innocence of child, the teacher should behave with him with great love and affection, sympathy, affection.
3. Instead of emphasizing on book learning, the teacher should provide conducive environment to the child so that he engages himself in useful and constructive activities and learn by his own experiences.
4. The teacher should always be busy with motivating the creative capacities of the children so that they remain busy with constructive activities and experience.
5. Education can be successfully imparted by understanding childhood and giving oneself totally in love and union with it.

Comparative Study: 
Naturalism vs. Idealism

Rabindranath Tagore, Aristotle, Pestalozzi
Plato, Swami Vivekananda, Mahatma Gandhi

Uncontrolled freedom
Regulated freedom

Behind the scene
Place of teacher is very high
courtesy: rabi bichitra, iccr, bengal art gallery

Naturocentric (nature is centre of reality)
Psycho-centric (mind is centre of reality)

Physical and natural laws
Spiritual laws

Does not believe in existence of God
Believes in God

Materialistic and mechanical

Opposes bookish knowledge
Emphasis bookish knowledge

Child centered
Teacher centered

Aims of education
Self expression
Self realisation

Autonomous development
Spiritual development

Emphasis on science
Emphasis on ethics

Methods of teaching
Learning by doing
Questioning method

Evaluation of Tagore’s Philosophy:
According to Radha Krishnan –"Rabindranath did not claim to produce any original philosophy. His aim was not to analyze or speculate about the Indian tradition. He expressed in his own vivid phrases and homely metaphors, and showed its relevance to modern life."
In the words of H.B.Mulherji –"Tagore was the greatest  prophet of educational renaissance in modern India. He waged ceaseless battle to uphold the highest educational ideal before the country, and conducted educational experiments at his own institutions, which made them living symbols of what an ideal should be."

The modern Indian concern about education:

The President said Indian educational institutions had dominated the world for about 1,800 years from the 6th century BC to 13th century AD and had been a magnet for scholars everywhere.
The President has been actively advocating the need for improving the quality of higher education to return our country to the days Nalanda and Takshashila enjoyed global prominence.
"India must regain the lost glory of past and once again become a centre for cross fertilization of ideas from across the world," President said.

Navbharat hindi daily/18th May 2014
reporting Tagore b'day celebration  on
13th May 2014 evening in Ambikapur
Rabindranath Tagore was primarily an educationist rather than a 
political thinker. He put emphasis on 'naturalism' for framing 
educational model. In education, freedom is the basic guiding force for 
inculcating interest within a student who will derive inspiration from 
nature to pursue any branch of knowledge he likes. The establishment of 
Shantiniketan fulfilled the desired goal of Tagore in the educational 

#links for further reading:

#A note for reference
Gandhi and Tagore:
Since Rabindranath Tagore and Mohandas Gandhi were two leading Indian thinkers in the twentieth century, many commentators have tried to compare their ideas. On learning of Rabindranath's death, Jawaharlal Nehru, then incarcerated in a British jail in India, wrote in his prison diary for August 7, 1941:
"Gandhi and Tagore. Two types entirely different from each other, and yet both of them typical of India, both in the long line of India's great men ... It is not so much because of any single virtue but because of the tout ensemble, that I felt that among the world's great men today Gandhi and Tagore were supreme as human beings. What good fortune for me to have come into close contact with them." 
#following sites consulted and thankfully shared from: 

Some pictures of Rabindranath Tagore:

Kaviguru with Helen Keller in NY- aami chini go chini tomare ogo Videshini..
Rare picture of Rabindranath Tagore with Helen Keller in New York in 1930.
In this rare photograph from The Hindu’s archives, Helen Keller, the blind American author and labour rights activist, greets Rabindranath Tagore at a meeting in New York in 1930
Albert Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore, Taken back in the year 1930 at Dhaka, where Einstein came to see Mr. Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore, when in Berlin, paid a visit to Professor Albert Einstein in his cottage at Caputh near Berlin, where the two world famous men had an enjoyable time in this August 24, 1930 picture. pic courtesy:
Rabindranath Tagore and Jawaharlal Nehru, engaged in deep conversation on November 4, 1936 at the Sylvan retreat of the poet at Bolpur. pic courtesy:
Mahatma Gandhi's promise of meeting Rabindranath Tagore annually is honoured when he visited him at Santiniketan in this February 20, 1940 picture. Here Tagore is in rapt attention to what Mahathma Gandhi is saying. pic courtesy:
Poet Rabindranath Tagore reclining in his bed in a railway compartment at Howrah station when he left for Shantiniketan after recovery from his illness. This photo was published on November 22, 1940. pic courtesy:

Poet Rabindranath Tagore reclining in his bed in a railway compartment at Howrah station when he left for Shantiniketan after recovery from his illness. This photo was published on November 22, 1940. pic courtesy:
Sir Maurice Gwyer, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan come out from Sinha Sadan, Santiniketan after the Oxford University Convocation on August 7, 1940. pic courtesy:
Mahatma Gandhi and Kasturba at a reception given by Rabindranath Tagore at Santiniketan in this February 20, 1940 picture. pic courtesy: