Teaching of Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore was born in Kolikata, India into a wealthy Brahmin family. After a brief stay in England (1878) to attempt to study law, he returned to India, and instead pursued a career as a writer, playwright, songwriter, poet, philosopher and educator. During the first 51 years of his life he achieved some success in the Calcutta area of India where he was born and raised with his many stories, songs and plays. His short stories were published monthly in a friend’s magazine and he even played the lead role in a few of the public performances of his plays. Otherwise, he was little known outside of the Calcutta area, and not known at all outside of India.
Rabindranath Tagore was a universal personality. His genius was versatile. He was influenced by the Christian conception of the fatherhood of God and by Shakespeare, Goethe, and Wordsworth etc. But the roots of his intellectual creativism and emotional make-up lie in the Upanishads, in the poetry of kalidas, in the lyrics of Vaisnavas, in the mystic poems of Kabir and the religious atmosphere of the Brahmo Samaj. Tagore’s inspired poetry and prose becomes the literary vehicle of the regeneration of a fallen race. His songs and messages were like inspirations to social and political workers. Tagore was venerated as a seer of Indian freedom. Apart from his political and social thoughts his educational thoughts were also standing as a landmark in the educational system of India. He tried to give India an educational system which can meet the spiritual and natural needs of human beings. The objective of the paper is to analyse the educational thoughts of Tagore, his basic conception of education and its process. The paper is primarily based on secondary sources like the Books, Journals and Articles etc. The method used is historic-analytic method. Tagore was a great champion of education for international understanding. Different philosophers have described the character of Tagore’s philosophy differently. Hirendrenath Datta describes his philosophy as Concrete Monism.1 It is monism because reality is conceived as one, and it is concrete because the one reality is not an abstract principle negating completely the reality of the many, but is a concrete whole, comprehending the many within its bosom. Radhakrishnan says, “We do not know whether it is Rabindranath’s own heart or the heart of India that is beating here. Tagore in his philosophy tries to revive the ancient ideals of life; and then, they have been re-stated in accordance with the needs of the present times. The traditional philosophical notions of India have been brought out by Tagore from the dark abyss of abstraction, where they were lying all the time, into the open to be viewed in the light of the present philosophical beliefs.
Rabindranath had understood that the educational system the British had enforced on India was meant only to train people to work as clerk in their offices, and if possible, to inculcate in the so-called educated men a feeling of inferiority for their own culture and philosophy.5 For this reason Tagore pleaded for an education system in India independent of colonial British control. This idea of Rabindranath gave birth to “Santiniketan” (abode of peace) an Ashrama style educational institution in which he provided education based on the principle of freedom, natural trust, co-operation and joy. In his opinion child’s education would be more effective if teachers and pupils live and work far away from din and bustle of the city, like the teachers and students of the past. He says, “this school should be home and a temple in one where teaching should be a part of worshipful life”. Placing teachers above the method of teaching Tagore said—
“The fact that education is something vital makes the teachers duties and responsibilities deserving of serious attention. The teachers should know that it is for him to inspire life in the students by his own living to enkindle the flame of knowledge in the students by his own knowledge.”
Rabindranath did not write a central educational treatise, and his ideas must be gleaned through his various writings and educational experiments at Santiniketan In general, he envisioned an education that was deeply rooted in one’s immediate surroundings but connected to the cultures of the wider world, predicated upon pleasurable learning and individualized to the personality of the child. He felt that a curriculum should revolve organically around nature with classes held in the open air under the trees to provide for a spontaneous appreciation of the fluidity of the plant and animal kingdoms, and seasonal changes. Children sat on hand-woven mats beneath the trees, which they were allowed to climb and run beneath between classes. Nature walks and excursions were a part of the curriculum and students were encouraged to follow the life cycles of insects, birds and plants. Class schedules were made flexible to allow for shifts in the weather or special attention to natural phenomena, and seasonal festivals were created for the children by Tagore.
Tagore’s educational writings constitute a voluminous literature, mostly scattered in independent essays, speeches and letters, only a small number of which have been collected in books and journals. The rest either are available in pages of old magazines and periodicals or lying in obscurity. This has deterred many educational researchers from working on Tagore. Also, majority of Tagore’s educational writings have been in Bengali, and have not yet been translated into English. This automatically narrows down the numbers of workers, especially in the West. Besides, Tagore’s literary genius has almost overpowered his work on education so much that even many of his biographers (Kriplani, 1962; Thompson, 1961) do not seem to be doing justice to his contributions to education. In such a situation, it seems important to locate, identify and analyze some of the valuable writings of Tagore in educational philosophy, theory and his experiments in education.
Let us have a close look at Tagore’s concepts on education.
(1) Teaching through Tours and Trips:
Tagore believed that the subjects like history, geography, economics and other social sciences can be effectively taught through excursions and tours to important spots. By this students will get an opportunity to observe numerous facts and gain first-hand knowledge through direct experience.
(2) Learning by activities:
Rabindranath Tagore said that for the development of child’s body and mind, learning through activity is essential. Therefore he included activities like climbing tree, drama, jumping, plucking fruits, dancing etc. in his educational programs.
(3) Narration-cum-discussion and debate method:
Narration-cum-discussion and debating activities were organized Tagore’s education centre to develop oratory abilities of the students. Students were encouraged to solve problems of various areas through rational debate and thorough discussion.
(4) Heurastic Method
Rabindranath Tagore introduced heuristic method as an important method of teaching in his educational institution. In this method first, the students, are asked questions to clarify their doubts on topics and teachers try to satisfy them by their correct answers. Then the teacher asks the questions to students to evaluate how far the students are able to comprehend the topic discussed in the class.
Discipline in his view
Tagore was a lover of children and an advocate of free discipline. He wanted to provide the child an opportunity for the discovery of his innate potentialities in liberty. The education of the child should be carried on naturally in natural environ.
About education method
In many developed states, like in the Scandinavian countries, the state does not impose any uniform national curriculum for the schools. It is the individual institutes who prepare their own curriculum for themselves. Tagore, almost a hundred years back, not only thought about such a mode but had even introduced and practiced it in Santiniketan. Tagore, with all earnest, tried to reach to the crux of the problematic of our education and identified the method of education itself as the main hindrance; “Due to our habit and blind prejudices we cannot think that the education method itself is the cause of our failure. Even while making new university the idea to change the method does not occur to us; we mount it in the same old cast. We yearn for the new but cannot have the confidence. Due to the hangover of the erstwhile education we have even lost the confidence to acknowledge that the method itself is the malady.”
Rabindranath Tagore established an educational institution in Bolepur, situated one hundred fifty kilometers north from Calcutta on December 22, 1901. It is Shanti Niketan. This school had Ashram sanctity like the Gurukula of ancient India. Visva-Bharati indicates a place of Universal knowledge and world culture. In 1951 the University raised to the status of Central University by an Act especially enacted in the Parliament. Visva-Bharati is an ideal place of learning amidst homely natural and spiritual atmosphere. This University has several departments like Vidya-Bhawan or a School of research Siksha- Bhawan or a college of education, Cheena Bhawan school of Sino-Indian studies, Kala-Bhawan or a School of fine arts, Sangeet Bhawan or a School of music and dancing, Sri Niketan or an institution of rural construction. Slipa-Bhawan or a School of Industries, Adhyapak Siksha Bhawan or a Teacher training college, Path Bhawan or a School etc. However many classes were held in open air, under the trees in the lap of nature.
Rabindranath Tagore, a true education philosopher developed an ideal experimental education institution in Santiniketan. Tagore was a great advocate of spiritual education and also stressed on harmonious development of the child with equal emphasis on mental, social and emotional growth. Tagore was the greatest prophet of modern Indian renaissance who sought to bring change through education.