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TAGORE — HIS EDUCATIONAL THEORY AND PRACTICE
AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIAN EDUCATION
RADHA VINOD JALAN
A DISSERTATION PRESENTED TO THE GRADUATE COUNCIL OF
THE UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA IN PARTIAL FULFILLMENT
OF THE REQUIREMENTS FOR THE DEGREE OF
DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
The completion of this study would not have been
possible without the help and support of a number of in-
dividuals. The writer wishes to express her sincere
appreciation to her chairman. Dr. Hal G. Lewis, for his
interest. in and understanding guidance through all phases
of this study until its completion. The assistance of the
other members of her committee was invaluable, and
appreciation is expressed to Dr. Austin B. Creel and Dr.
Vynce A. Hines. Appreciation is also expressed to Mrs.
Voncile Sanders for her expert typing of the final copy.
The writer is grateful to her husband Vinod, and our
daughter, for their sacrifice, devotion, and inspiration.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
II RELATED EDUCATIONAL READINGS. . . . .
Tagore's Selected Writings on
Some Significant Works on Tagore
Ill THE EDUCATIONAL THEORY OF TAGORE. . .
Background for Tagore ' s Theory .
Characteristics of Indian
Education During Tagore's
Tagore's Childhood Ex-
Aims of Education
Summary. . . . . .
Ideal Education. ...
Congruency Between Education
IV PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF TAGORE'S THEORY.
TABLE OF CONTENTS (Continued)
Origin and Development of
the Institution 50
Main Divisions of the
Patha-Bhavana (The School). . 68
Siksha-Bhavana . 70
Centre of Advanced Study
in Philosophy 72
of Tagore Studies and
Vinaya Bhavana (College of
Kala Bhavana (College of Fine
Arts & Crafts) ....... 75
Sangeet Bhavana (College of
Music and Dance) 75
Lok Siksha Samsad (People's
Education Council) ..... 78
Siksha-Charcha Bhavana. ... 88
Organization of Daily
Organization of Curriculum .... 96
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION 106
Impact on Indian Education
Basic Education and Tagore . 107
Suggestions for Further Research. . 120
Contribution to Indian
Summary 12 4
TABLE OF CONTENTS (Continued)
BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH 153
Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate Council
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor .of Philosophy
TAGORE — HIS EDUCATIONAL TPffiORY AND PRACTICE
AND ITS IMPACT ON INDIAN EDUCATION
Radha Vinod Jalan
Chairman: Hal G. Lewis
Major Department: Foundations of Education
This study was undertaken to determine the nature of
Tagore's educational theory and practice and its impact on
Indian education. Material for the research was collected
during a trip to Visva-Bharati, India and the writer's
knowledge of Bengali was useful in obtaining significant
data from Tagore's voluminous untranslated writings on
education. During the course of study a review of Tagore's
writings on education and others on Tagore was presented.
A discussion of the major educational problems that existed
in the British period in India, added to the early educa-
tional experiences of Tagore is presented to give a com-
plate background for the basis of Tagore's theory. The
core of Tagore's educational theory puts greater emphasis
on the complete harmonious development of individual per-
sonality. He believed that education should help an
individual to attain complete manhood, so that all his
powers may be developed to the fullest extent for his own
individual perfection as well as the perfection of the human
society in which he was born. He believed that education
was not merely a means for the growth and fullness of the
individual, but it was also concerned with the whole
physical and social milieu in which his life was lived. He
wanted the boys and girls to be fearless, free and open-
minded, self-reliant, full of the spirit of inquiry and self-
critical, with their roots deep in the soil of India but
reaching out to the world in understanding, neighborliness,
cooperation and material and spiritual progress. Tagore's
concept of ideal education covered the description of ideal
atmosphere, institution, teacher, and method. Actually
Tagore's success lies in the fact that he did not try to
control directly the ideas, feelings, and values of his
children but imaginatively designed an environment and a
program of activities and experiences which evoked the
desired responses. He also believed that the education of
a country acquires shape and substance only against the
entire background and it is important that there is a
strong relationship between education and society.
Tagore's educational theory was put into practice in
his school at Santiniketan, which started with only five
students on the roll. A history of the origin and develop-
ment of the institution reveals that from such a small
start the school has grown to a University, Visva-Bharati,
with different departments in humanities, science, art,
music, education, Chinese studies, advanced studies in
philosophy and village welfare. In 1922, the Department of
Village Welfare at Santiniketan was further developed to
include extended work on rural reconstruction, village
education, craft-training, agricultural research and train-
ing and was named Sriniketan. Tagore ' s practical aspect of
education also includes a description o:^ organization of
daily activities in which freedom, games and sports, art,
and entertainments at night are emphasized. Tagore 's
organization of curriculum was not narrowed down to only
textbook learning, but it provided a fullness of experience
for children from multiple sources. He interpreted the
curriculum not in terms of certain subjects to be learned
but in terms of certain activities to be undertaken.
Tagore 's impact on education in India has not been well
recognized and through discussion it was found that educa-
tional work of Tagore deserves more scrutiny. It needs to
be recognized and evaluated by educationists around the
world. His impact on education has been felt more but it
has not been articulated' by researchers, or educationists.
Present writing open avenues for further research on
Tagore as an educationist by making further suggestions
and presenting an extensive bibliography on Tagore 's
writings on education.
Rabindranath Tagore, recipient of the Nobel Prize for
Literature in 1913, is internationally known as a great poet.
He was born on May 1, 1861, in Calcutta, Bengal, at a time
when the first uncritical admiration for the West had worn off
and there was a more balanced appraisal for it. Simultaneously,
there was increased knowledge of and regard for the values of
the East. His grandfather. Prince Dwarkanath Tagore, was a
friend of the great Indian religious reformer. Raja Rammohan
Roy, and was among the first Indians to travel to Europe. His
father, Maharsi (great saint) Devendranath, was a deep student
of Indian and Islamic mysticism. From his earliest days,
Rabindranath grew up in a house where all the surging tides
of the Indian Renaissance were flowing around his daily life.
In Bengal, this Renaissance found expression in three great
movements, religious, literary and national and all these
three movements found their votaries in the Tagore family.
Rabindranath 's eldest brother, Dwijendranath, was a philosopher
and writer, and a second brother, Satyendranath, was the first
Indian to enter the Civil Service. Another brother,
Abanindranath, was a lover of music and drama and he used to
compose tunes in new styles. His nephews, Abanindranath and
Gaganendranath, were two great artists of Bengal. Not only
the boys, but also his sister, Swarnakumari, became a very
well known writer in later days. In an atmosphere like this
Tagore himself started writing poems at the age of eight and
at the age of thirteen his poems were published in a Bengali
monthly magazine, Bharati , under the name of Bhanusimha.
Rabindranath ' s poetic career kept on flourishing in later
years. His book Gitanjali (offering of songs) brought him
the Nobel Prize and international fame. Actually his fame as
a poet has so much eclipsed his great contributions in litera-
ture, education and other aspects of life that the latter have
rarely received the attention and appreciation that they
really deserve. His writings which are available in English
versions do not fully represent his original work in Bengali.
To a large extent, this was one of the reasons that, in his
lifetime, Tagore 's reputation in the Western world declined.
English translations of his writings failed to give a complete
picture of Tagore as an educator and social reconstructor .
It seems worthwhile to explore other areas of Tagore 's work
and give them due attention.
Although Tagore's literary versatility as poet, dramatist,
short-story writer, essayist, and novelist has received wide
attention in his home country, his educational theory and
practice have been neglected for the most part. Tagore did
not have any academic degree in education, but he was a great
educator of his time. He not only advocated changes in educa-
tion but practiced them in his school at Santiniketan. The
school started in 1901 under the name Brahmacharyasram,
was later changed to Brahma vidyalaya and finally to simply
the Santiniketan School. Later the school was expanded and in
1921 Vis va-Bharati, the International University, was formally
inaugurated. In 1922, rural welfare department of Visva-
Bharati was formally opened at Surul with the name of Srini-
ketan. Like the other departments of Visva-Bharati, Sriniketan
grew slowly f ran small beginnings to a great centre of rural
reconstruction and village education. Actually, Tagore was the
first in India to think out for himself and put into practice
principles of education which have now become commonplace in
educational theory if not yet in practice. At present, when
India is trying to find appropriate educational direction for
its development, Tagore's educational work deserves scrutiny.
The main purpose of this study is to determine the nature
of Tagore's educational theory and its practice in his
institute. It is also intended to estimate the impact of his
program on Indian education. Tagore's thoughts on education
are not formulated in any systematic treatises. His educa-
tional 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
educational journals. The rest are either available in the
pages of old magazines and periodicals or are lying in
obscurity. To construct a coherent and unified pattern out
of this mass of diffuse material is no easy task. Moreover,
Tagore's treatment of his theory has been generally so impre-
cise and so diffused with poetic abstractions and fine emo-
tions that to work out an objective rationale of educational
philosophy from it all is a great challenge. The procedure
employed in this research is analytical. The research is
based upon an extensive study of Tagore's writings and lec-
tures, both in Bengali and English languages. Available
brochures, reports and publications on Tagore's educational
theory and his institutions are also carefully examined.
The study deals with different aspects of the educational
philosophy of Tagore. Chapter II consists of a description
of educational readings on Tagore and a description of
selected works from Tagore's voluminous writing on education.
showing a gradual development in his thinking. Chapter III
will discuss the educational theory of Tagore. To understand
his theory correctly, it is necessary to know the educational
system in India at that time and the childhood experiences of
Tagore as a student which greatly influenced the idea of the
unique school of Santiniketan. His theory has been cate-
gorized under the titles. Aims of Education . Ideal Education ,
and Conqruencv Between Educational and Social Life . Chapter IV
will show how Tagore tried to put his theory into practice in
his institution. In this context, a study has been made of
the organization and division of his institution into different
departments and curricula. Chapter V will be the concluding
chapter showing Tagore 's impact on Indian education and at this
stage a comparison will be made between Gandhi's Basic
Education and Tagore ' s system. This will be followed by an
extensive bibliography of educational writings of Tagore, and
others on Tagore as an educator. This bibliography itself
will meet a need in educational literature.
Material for this research was collected through various
sources. In addition to professional books and articles in
periodicals dealing with Tagore 's educational philosophy and
activities found in the University of Florida library and the
Library of Congress, others were obtained from the Indian Consulate
of New York, the Indian Embassy Research Department in Wash-
ington, D. C. and the Indian Information Service, Washington,
D. C. Some of the valuable material that could not be located
in this country was collected during a trip to Santiniketan
and Calcutta. The publisher at Visva-Bharati kindly made it
possible to obtain copies of some of these documents for the
research. On the recommendation of Himangshu Mukherjee,
professor at Vinaya-Bhavana, the researcher spent considerable
time in reading some articles in copies of old newspapers and
magazines at Rabindra-Sadana, Santiniketan, and thus got very
relevant materials for the work. These will be found in the
It is important to mention that since a large part of
Tagore's educational writings are in Bengali and wherever
something is quoted from these the translations are made by
the researcher. Also, for the references only Bengali era is
given for them. Bengali era is 593 years behind Christian
RELATED EDUCATIONAL READINGS
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, a 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.
Taqore's Selected Writings
Siksar Herpher (12 99 B.S.) is Tagore ' s very first
writing which enunciates explicitly some of his fundamental
educational thoughts although in earlier articles and essays
his political and social consciousness could be observed in
spite of the fact that at the time of its publication he was
only 31 years of age. It is likely that these early ex-
periences were forming the background for Tagore 's educational
career. The article Siksar Herpher eloquently pleads for a
system of education conducted in congenial surroundings and
in a manner surcharged with the spirit of joy. It argues that
the ultimate aim of education should be the all round develop-
ment of an individual for harmonious adjustment to reality.
It advocated the value and need of the mother tongue in pro-
viding all the necessary educational nourishment of the child.
Prabhatkumar Mukhopadhyay , Tagore 's biographer, has noted that
"it was the first really comprehensive and competent criticism
of the educational system of the country at that time" (1353-
1363 B.S. V.I., p. 271) .
Tagore 's first educational writing attracted wide attention
in Bengal and for some time Tagore kept on writing about the
subject in editorial columns of Sadhana under the general
title Prasanga Katha (Relevant talks) . He was firm on his
stand for the place of the mother tongue in education, but
nevertheless he insisted that English may be taught as a
language, and that from early years, in wise doses, and in
the proper sequence, only as a supplement to the mother tongue.
With the advent of the twentieth century Tagore ' s idea
of the all-round regeneration of the country through national
self-determination, individual efforts and sacrifice were being
expressed more powerfully through his writings and actions.
He was a great believer in the value of education as the most
fundamental prerequisite of the progress of a nation and he
joined the National Council of Education which aimed at bring-
ing reforms in education. But Tagore ' s conception of true
national education was fundamentally different from the
official policy of the National Education Council. He heartily
welcomed the desire for self-determination in education which
had inspired the movement but he strongly deplored the idea of
launching the western type of political agitation which
appealed for favors to the ruling power, especially when they
were foreigners.^ He appealed to his countrymen to approach
national problems in an objective and rational manner and to
turn attention and energy to the prime object of national
reconstruction with the village as the center. Ultimately,
he withdrew himself from active participation in the national
movement in both the political and educational spheres and
retired to Santiniketan by the end of 1905 to pursue his own
goal. Tagore's writings of this period reveal his thinking on
In 1905, in his address to the students, "Chatrader Prati
Saitibhasan," Tagore advocated a realistic education acquired
through independent efforts. In the article "Purvaprasner
Anubritti, he argued, "it is necessary to remember that if
we place education in the hands of the government, they will
attempt through that education to fulfill their own interests
and not ours. They will so arrange that a farmer may remain
only a farmer in his village; they will not bother to make him
a true citizen of India. We can impart education according to
our desire only if we take education in our hands . It is
absurd both to beg and to order" (Rabindra Rachanavali, V. XII,
A much firmer ground for Tagore's educational philosophy
is found in the article, "Siksa-Samasya " (June, 1906) — The
Problem of Education. Though not stating it directly, Tagore
clearly indicates here for the first time his fundamental point
of difference with the National Council of Education in his
repeated statement that no truly national system of education
in India could be based on any imitation of a foreign model.
According to him, true national education is one which is or-
ganically linked with the life of a nation and which is a natural
process through the accumulated endeavors and the cherished
ideals and traditions of the people of the land. In this
article, he gives an elaborate and critical exposition of what
he regarded as the most important features of a national educa-
tional system. He emphasized that the primary condition of
true education should be residence at the home of the teacher
and a life of discipline (brahmacharya) during the entire
period of studentship. He maintained that brahmacharya alone
should not be regarded as sufficient for a full education, but
it should be reinforced by the wholesome influences of cosmic
nature. He also believed that such an institution should be
run on the ideal pattern of simplicity. This essay presents a
fairly definite and comprehensive exposition of Tagore's own
constructive plan for a truly national system of education,
which shaped his educational activity for some years to come.
After the preliminary excitement of the movement had
entirely subsided, Tagore started devoting thought and activity
towards fulfillment of his own evolving ideology. First
important writing in this direction is "Tapovan"^ (Jan, 1910) —
Forest. In this article for the first time Tagore introduced
a new idea of the education of feeling (bodher sadhana) and
he distinguished it from the education of the senses and the
education of the intellect. This education of feeling con-
sists of the realization of man's bond of union with the
universe through the spirit, through the soul, through the
deeper intuition of feeling. Through her national system of
education India should endeavor to discover and attain the
characteristic truth of her civilization pursued through the
centuries by her prophets, thinkers and saints and "that truth
is not mainly commercialism, imperialism or nationalism; that
truth is universalism" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 100). The
highly significant point here is that while Tagore is still
talking in terms of nationalism and swearing by the ideals of
Ancient India, he is interpreting the highest of these ideals
in terms of internationalism.
A letter entitled "Siksavidhi" --The Method of Educatioh--
is devoted to the problem of the philosophy of educational
method in some of the fundamental aspects as well as in the
context of the existing socio-political and educational con-
ditions in India. The stereotyped and mechanical educational
atmosphere of India was obstructing the originality or initia-
tive of children and he said that education can be imparted
only by a teacher and never by a method. "Man can learn only
from a man. Just as a water tank can be filled only with water
and fire can be kindled only with fire, life can be inspired
only with life. . . .The mere pill of a method instead shall
bring us no salvation" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 128).
In "Strisiksa"^ (August, 1915) — The Education of Woman,
shedding some light on the philosophy of curriculum, Tagore
writes, "Whatever is worth knowing is knowledge. It should be
known equally by men and women, not for the sake of practical
utility but for the sake of knowing" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 138)
He makes it clear that knowledge is above the limitation
of mere utility. He rejects the common notion that in learning
some common subjects with men, women would lose their femi-
ninity. Later in the article, he makes his point clear.
"Knowledge has two departments: one, pure knowledge; the other,
utilitarian knowledge. In the field of pure knowledge, there
is no distinction between men and women; distinction exists
in the sphere of practical utility; women should acquire pure
knowledge for becoming a mature human being, and utilitarian
knowledge for becoming true women" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 139).
Thus, on the basis of pure knowledge there should not be any
distinction between men and women but a distinction does
exist in the sphere of practical or utilitarian knowledge. It
is utilitarian knowledge which should help an individual to be
successful in that sphere of life to which he or she truly
and naturally belongs. In his institution Tagore gave an
equal place to the education of girls and women and had built
a hostel for girls. This was considered a very radical step
in Indian society at that time.
It is not until 1916 that we find something relevant to
education written by Tagore in English. The major writing
of this year is "My School" (1916) . It is one of the lectures
delivered by Tagore in America. It is the first and perhaps
the most comprehensive writing by Tagore on his school at
Santiniketan. In the article, we find all the previous
theories or ideas of Tagore restated and reinterpreted. He
also discussed some new concepts regarding his school. "I
know what it was to which this school owes its origin. It
was not any new theory of education, but the memory of my
school day" (Tagore, 1917c, p. 138). This is perhaps the
first categorical statement by Tagore that his educational
venture had its genesis in his painful childhood memories.
He also clearly denied here that in founding his school he
was actuated by any set educational theory and "the growth of
this school, was the growth of my life and not that of a mere
carrying out of any doctrine" (Tagore, 1917c, p. 161).
Finally, he pointed out, that any outward description of such
a school, as his, would be inadequate, for it is the atmos-
phere prevailing there that is really important and it is
by that that the institution should be judged.
Tagore's philosophy of nature is the subject of "The
Schoolmaster" (June, 1924) which was a lecture delivered in
Japan. Tagore based his arguments on the fundamental as sump-,
tion that nature's own purpose is to give the child its full-
ness of growth, and that in imposing our own purpose of giv-
ing it some special direction we are distrusting nature's
purpose. Thus, it is only through freedom that man can attain
his fullness of growth. He postulated three kinds of freedom,
freedom of mind, freedom of heart and freedom of will. Free-
dom of mind is opposed to the adult's system of concentration
of mind and a child can grow fully only when he is given free-
dom to express himself, to explore the world on his own.
Actually, due to this philosophy Tagore never used any coercion
or punishment against the naughty boys in his school. He
interpreted freedom of heart as unrestricted human relation-
ship. In the school, he feels, teachers should substitute
for the mother in providing freedom of love to the children
through their understanding, sympathy and free companionship. .
Finally, freedom of will or the free activity of soul con-
sists in creating one's own world. The way to bring this
ideal into effect, is to invite the pupils to participate in
the building up of the school and in its development (Tagore,
The next significant educational writing of Tagore is
"Alochana" (July, 1925) — A Discourse, in which a special
reference is made to the conduct of the institute's inmates
in minute practical details. In his code of manners, Tagore
emphasizes the importance of suitable greetings with different
persons on different occasions, of the excellent tradition of
hospitality of the asram, of punctuality, of clean and proper
dress according to occasions, and of the maintenance of general
cleanliness of the hostel rooms, furniture and personal effects
as well as of the surroundings, as a sign of good manners and
self-respect. Emphasizing the need of the cultivation of
sociability among the pupils of the institution, he suggested
that the different student hostels should invite one another
to social and cultural functions organized by them. He also
points out that physical education is inseparable from mental
education. He refers to his idea about "the peripatetic" or
mobile school, that is, teaching and learning while walking.
He believes that this not only facilitates learning many
things through direct observation but it keeps our awakened
mental faculties constantly alert and receptive through contact
with ever varying scenes and objects.
In a speech entitled "Dharabahi" (Dec. 23, 1934) — In
Continuous Flow, Tagore introduced a point of very great
importance and mentions it is true that he based the institu-
tion initially on the ideal of simplicity of the ancient
Tapovans, which still largely possesses validity in modern
life but he realizes that it is not the whole truth. "It is
not entirely true that a simple mode of life within a narrow
compass is the highest ideal. . . .Rather, that activity has
to be respected which ultimately retains its vitality in spite
of all the errors that it may commit in the course of its
onward progress along a rough and wide path. What is more
absurd than the desire and the effort to preserve permanently
the simplicity of childhood" (Tagore, 1370 B.S., p. 136). It
also indicates that Tagore would not be entirely unhappy over
the later expansion of the original asram school into manifold
activities through various departments, which he interprets
here as a natural culmination of the inner spirit of the
The book Russia-r-Chithi (May, 1931) —Letters from
Russia, possesses considerable value as a forceful exposition
of some of the most fundamental aspects of Tagore ' s socio-
political philosophy and the objects that impressed Tagore
from educational points of view. Russian experiments
interested him more because to some extent they could have
been used for Indian situations, too. He said that the
Russian revolution is significant because it is the symbol
of the awakening of the oppressed and the have-nots throughout
the world. Tagore expressed pleasant surprise and belief
that the masses in Russia had attained self-respect and an
acute sense of responsibility about the future progress of
the country. He was trying to achieve these goals in
Sriniketan, and tried to draw the attention of political
leaders towards this problem but it was to no avail. Russia
had the same evils as India but education was the only force
that brought progress there. It was education that raised
the level of the intelligence of the entire nation. Tagore
found close similarities in his and Russian educational aims,
and experiments. Russians also aimed at fullness of life.
Their educational philosophy included dynamic living and close
association with life as the main qualities of education.
Another thing that impressed Tagore was the importance attached
to all forms of art in education and public life. But Tagore
did not praise the system blindly. He criticized their
uniform pattern of educational product, sacrificing individual
needs and interests for the collectives. Also, Tagore was
wholly against the principle of dictatorship prevailing in
the Soviet state. He believed that with good cooperation
both individuality and general welfare can be achieved.
Even in the case of Russia, Tagore seems to be hopeful be-
cause "they have developed their intellectual vitality.
Therein lies their road to redemption" (Tagore, 1970, p. 84)
Some Significant Works
Considering the amount of writing that Tagore has pro-
vided and his experiments, in education, the number of signifi-
cant research or scholarly analysis of his work have been
numerous. Many of the available writings are as articles in
different journals but they really do not represent his work.
One of the oldest writing is Santiniketan by William Pearson
(1915). Pearson was one of the earliest workers at Santini-
ketan from England. He came to visit Santiniketan at the end
of 1912 and in April 1914 he came finally to stay there and
work with Rabindranath. He learned Bengali very soon there
and this helped him in communicating to children in the school
as well as to the tribal communities around Santiniketan. His
book is the first direct account of the activities at the
school. The introduction of the book is written by Rabin-
dranath where once again he mentioned the origin of the school
and the atmosphere in his school. The book was written during
Pearson's trip to Japan and he mentioned in the book that
though he was outside the asram at the time he kept on think-
ing about it all the time (Pearson, 1965, p. 10). Among the
things which he described about schools are student committees,
magazines, open classrooms, excursions, intimacy between stu-
dents and teachers, sports, and daily routine. There Were
about 2 teachers and staff for 150 students. There was no
headmaster, the school was under the management of an
executive committee elected by the teachers themselves, and
one of its members was elected each year as the executive
head. He was entrusted with the practical management of the
institution. In each subject one of the teachers was elected
as director of studies and he with the other teachers in the
same subject discussed the books and methods to be adopted.
However, each teacher enjoyed perfect freedom to work out his
own methods in the way he thought best. If Tagore was present
at Santiniketan he would preside at the meetings and even taught
classes (Pearson, 1965, pp. 20-21). Though Bengali was the
medium of education, English was taught as a second language.
Pearson also commented about the students' love for young
children and their attitude towards service to others.
Pearson's book is more of a description of the school than
a critical analysis. Santiniketan school was still very
young at that time and the newness of the experiment plus
Tagore's international reputation attracted many foreigners
to its campus.
Another book on the similar pattern is Amader Santiniketan
by Sudhiranjan Das (1962). Mr. Das was a student at Santi-
niketan school from which he was graduated. Once when he was
home on vacation, he fell sick and afterwards his parents
decided to enroll him in a school in Calcutta. He stayed in
this school for a year, but by the end he was restless. After
some time with all his courage he mentioned in the home that
he would like to go back to Santiniketan, and this time he
stayed there until his graduation (Das, 1369 B.S., p. 58).
The book is a memoir from a student talking about teachers,
students, other staff members, and life-styles of a student in
the school. He mentioned that initially the school was sus-
pected of being a center of underground activities by the
government and the government had issued a circular that
none of its employees or anybody who was looking for any help
from the government should send their children to this school.
Due to this some who wanted to send their children to this
school could not do so (Das, 1369 B.S., p. 12).
Das's family knew Tagore's family well and one of his
aunts reconunended to his father that if he was sent to
Raviuncle's school both his body and mind would benefit
(Das, 1369 B.S., p. 14), and his father liked the idea. With
the approval of his admission he got a copy of the rules and
regulations of the school. In detail, there was a list of
what clothing and other materials he should bring with him,
but the most exciting thing for him in the list was to bring
a small tool box with some tools in it.
Mr. Das' account is valuable for it gives a good
account of the school from a student's point of view. It
reflects on life style, which was full of freedom, fun and
festivals. During the presentation of plays Tagore himself
would direct and sometimes even would do the make-up for
students. He also used to teach his songs to students even
before they were published. Life of a student was full of
activities, and there was very little forced studying until
the year of graduation.
The next book in the discussion is Rabindranath Tagore;
India's Schoolmaster by J. J. Cornelius (1930), which was
presented to the facility of Columbia University as a doctoral
dissertation. This was the first scholarly study of Tagore 's
educational work. After discussing the British educational
policy, the writer in detail described the different aspects
of Visva-Bharati's curriculum, Tagore's theory regarding
education and the daily schedule of the institution. It has
also mentioned different requirements for different levels
of studies. The writer feels that "Rabindranath has given to
India an experimental school based on a synthesis of the
ideals of ancient Indian education and of modern Western edu-
cation. It is an Indianized educational institution for the
formation and growth of social solidarity, on which alone the
true progress of India depends. The institution spells
freedom — freedom of mind, freedom of will, and above all,
freedom of sympathy" (Cornelius, 1930, p. 162). The writer
is full of praise for Tagore's unique contribution to the
world and hopes that "just as Rabindranath ' s sympathetic
response to the cry of the childhood suffering from a system
of education which is crushing its body and soul, has given
to India the Shantiniketan school, so also the cry of suffer-
ing humanity from the world-wide disaster brought about by
the great war and the mentality which led to it, has caused
Tagore to bring to India his gift of Visva-Bharati or the
International University. Here man is to grow in the knowl-
edge that his own interests are bound up intimately with those
of other human beings, and also that wealth can never satisfy
the innermost cravings of the human soul" (Cornelius, 1930,
p. 193) . The whole book is a nice analytical representa-
tion of Tagore's work but since the study was performed in
1928, just six years after the inauguration of Visva-
Bharati, it is an incomplete study.
Himangshu Bhusan Mukherjee's Education for Fulness
(1962) is a scholarly presentation of the subject. Dr.
Mukherjee is at present a professor at Visva-Bharati in
Vinaya-Bhavana . His work is valuable in a study of Tagore
because it covers in detail different aspects of Tagore's
theory. The book is divided into four parts: The Pre-
Santiniketan Period, The Santiniketan Period, The Visva-
Bharati Period, and Review and Estimates. The Pre-
Santiniketan Period deals with Tagore's background and his
educational writings from 1892-1898. The Santiniketan
Period describes the growth and development of Santiniketan
and educational writings of the period, that is, from 1901
to 1918. The Visva-Bharati Period starts at 1918 and ends
at 1941, with Tagore's death. Again in this period major
emphasis is on educational writings of Tagore and growth
and development of Visva-Bharati. The last section has
some essays regarding Tagore's theory of education. The
book is mainly a detailed study of Tagore's educational
writings. The major drawback of the book seems to be that
it is very repetitive and at times boring. The writer
is so full of respect for Tagore that it irritates a
general reader. Even with such a detailed study, a cri-
tical outlook is lacking. The writer has not mentioned
his viewpoints regarding some major issues, such as why
Tagore 's approach did not catch on, and what its impact on
Indian education was. The most discouraging part of the
book is its bibliography. Incomplete information in bibliog-
raphy is really a frustrating part for a researcher, who
is trying to locate these materials.
Another book is Educational Ideas and Ideals of Gandhi
and Tagore by R. S. Mani (1964). It was originally written
for a Ph.D. dissertation to the University of Madras,
India. Basically in descriptive style the writer has pre-
sented the educational background, educational philosophies,
and experiments of two famous educationists of India —
Gandhi and Tagore. In the book one section discusses
Gandhi, another is about Tagore and part three is a com-
parative study of educational ideas and ideals of Gandhi
and Tagore. In the appendix, a chapter titled "Has Basic
Education Caught on" is added which reviews the concept of
basic education critically and the writer feels, "What
was probably the error in the basic scheme, was that of
building the whole curriculum around a single craft,
usually spinning and weaving in deference to Mahatma
Gandhi's ideas" (Mani, 1964, p. 318). The book does not
have any bibliography and for any reference the reader has
to go through pages of text until one could locate it.
Again, one of the major problems is that the book is very
repetitive and nonimpressive. Even after discussing two
such philosophies we do not find any suggestion by the
writer as to which one of them is or what could be a
solution for the educational problems of India.
One important book in understanding Tagore's educational
philosophy is Tagore's Educational Philosophy and Experiment
by Sunilchandra Sarkar (1961) . The writer was a teacher
at Santiniketan for twenty years after Tagore's death and
had seen how some of the teachers and students of Santi-
niketan, of different generations have reflected different
aspects of Tagore's ideals in their personality. He
mentions that "acutely conscious though he has always
been of all the lack and deficiency that appeared from
time to time, of the many grievous trials and troubles
that come to thwart or deflect the educational experiment
or to observe its chief purpose, he has also always had
the satisfaction of seeing the Tagore element, the
resilient truth of his contribution, emerge again and
again" (Sarkar, 1951, Preface). The book discusses in
detail Tagore's educational philosophy in comparison with
some Western and Indian philosophers like Dewey, Froebel,
Gandhi, Aurobindo, and Vivekanda. The writer has also
presented a report of his work which he prepared 20 years
ago and compared it with current situations. He did
notice some changes in the curriculum but found that the
basic spirit is still there.
All these studies and some others lack a critical
approach. Most of the writers are so full of respect
toward Tagore that they are hesitant in pointing out his
weaknesses. Again, since most of these people are asso-
ciated with Santiniketan, it is difficult to find an
impartial objective study among them. The present study
will try to overcome the weaknesses cited so far and will
be a significant contribution in the research of Tagore as an
educationist. It was not Tagore's school atmosphere or his
personality which has encouraged the research but it was
his ideas regarding education which impressed us most.
The discussion of Tagore's theory and his experiment will
be presented on an analytical basis and Tagore's impact
on Indian education will be reviewed critically. The
extensive bibliography of present work has used the style
recommended by the American Psychological Association and
this style would make the bibliography more useful for any
Tagore, R. N. "Siksar Herpher. " The article was
originally published in Bengali monthly magazine Sadhana .
Later it was included in the book Siksa . An English
translation of the article is available by the title
"Topsy-Turvy Education, " in the magazine The Visva-Bharati
Quarterly . Nov. 1946- Jan. 1947.
^Various articles related to the theme can be found
in the Bengali monthly magazine Vangadarsan during July 1904
to Sept. 1905. Some of them are: "Swadeshi Sama j "
(July 1904), its sequel (Sept. 1904), "Saphaltar Sadupay"
(March 1905), and "Avastha Vyavastha" (Sept. 1905).
■^The address was delivered to a gathering of students.
It was published in Vangadarsan , Vaisakh 1312 B.S. Later
it was reprinted in the book Siksa, 1351 B.S. edition.
'^Originally published in Bengali monthly magazine
Bhandar , Jaistha, 1312 B.S., reprinted in the book Rabindra
Rachanavali , v. XI I.
^Originally published in Bhandar , Jaistha, 1313 B.S.
reprinted in Siksa .
^Originally published in Bengali monthly magazine
Pravasi , Magh 1316 B.S., reprinted in the book Siksa .
"^A letter written to Dhirendra Mohan Sen in Sept.
1912 from Chalford, England. It was published in Pravasi ,
Asvin 1319 B.S. and was reprinted in the book Siksa .
^Originally published in Bengali monthly magazine
Sabui Patra , Bhadra-Asvin 1322 B.S. Later it was re-
printed in the book Siksa.
Originally published in Bengali monthly magazine
Santiniketan . Sravan, 1332 B.S. It was reprinted in
1342 B.S. edition of the book Siksa .
■•■^Originally published in Bengali monthly magazine
Pravasi . Phalgun 1341 B.S. It was reprinted in the book
Visva-Bharati 1370 B.S.
THE EDUCATIONAL THEORY OF TAGORE
Background for Tagore's Theory
Characteristics of Indian
Education During Tagore's Time
In order to understand the educational theory of Tagore,
it is essential to review briefly the history of the exist-
ing educational system of India. Indian and Western educa-
tors, education commissioner's reports, British rulers'
statements, etc., provide the material for the subject. The
East India Company and later the British government were
interested in introducing Western education primarily as a
means of training a sufficient number of Indians in English
to make the task of administration easier. Instead of basing
secondary and higher education on a well-planned and compre-
hensive system of elementary and secondary education, it made
elementary and secondary education subsidiary and subservient
to higher education. The prevailing system of education was
book centered. Even in the case of young children, it was
more an exercise of the memory than a development of in-
tellect, emotions, and character. It often drew the child
away from his social and cultural milieu and encouraged in
him a distaste, if not contempt, for manual labor. The result
was that the child trained in this educational pattern tended
to become dependent upon a particular type of employment
especially clerical. Apart from its failure as preparation
for life, the system was not satisfactory even from a purely
educational point of view. Instead of aiming at the balanced
development of personality, it tended to place an undue
emphasis on the memory. The will and imagination were neg-
lected and, of the different aspects of the intellect, a
greater emphasis was placed on memory than on reasoning and
judgement. The result was that the child acquired information
but did not gain the assistance needed to become an intel-
lectual mature human being (Kabir, 1955).
It was in 1834 that Lord Macaulay came to India to act
as a president of the General Committee in the government of
India Officials' Board. In 1835, Macaulay 's minutes on
education articulated the educational policy of the British
Government. He wrote: "We do not at present aim at giving
education directly to the lower classes of the people of this
country. We aim at raising up an educated class who will be
hereafter, as we hope, the means of diffusing among their
countrymen some portions of the knowledge we have imparted to
them" (Stark, 1916, p. 55). In explaining the objects of
teaching English he wrote: "We must at present do our best
to form a class who may be interpreters between us and the
millions whom we govern: a class of persons, Indian in blood
and colour but English in taste, in opinions, in morals and
in intellect" (Edwards, 1968).
Thus, the policy pursued by the British Government gave
a decided turn to Indian education. It had far-reaching
consequences, and the effect was not confined to education
alone, but extended to the moral, religious and political
fields. This system created two distinct strata in the
society — English knowing people and non-English knowing people
who made up the mass of the Indian population and who were
looked down upon by the former .
The educational pattern which was started by the British,
was continued in India for a long time. During that period
the program of studies for elementary school was not related
to the needs and surroundings of the pupils. This was
particularly so in the case of rural elementary schools. It
has been clearly expressed in the following press communique
issued by the Government of Madras on June 26, 1937: "There
is little or no training in the powers of observation, hardly
any practical work. . . .The teaching usually tends to
divorce the pupil from village life and hereditary occupa-
tions rather than help to train better villagers" (Yearbook,
1940, pp. 424-40).
"The Report of the Secondary Education Commission"
mentioned that in the new high schools the standard of
achievement in literary subjects was, frcra the very beginning,
high, but little or no progress was made in training the
pupils in the practical aspects of science (1953). Certain
specific problems grew out of the system of secondary educa-
tion in vogue during the years 1854-1882: The mother tongue
was neglected as a medium of instruction? nothing was done to
train teachers for the secondary schools; and the courses of
study became too academic and unrelated to life mainly because
there was no provision for vocational, technical courses.
An Indian government report in 1918 describes the fruits of
this earlier policy: "From the economic point of view India
has been handicapped by the want of professional and technical
instruction; her colleges turn out numbers of young men
qualified for governmental clerkships while the real interests
of the country require, for example, doctors and engineers
in excess of the existing supply" (p. 150). Further, the
system of education failed to promote a sense of citizenship
and social efficiency in the student. "The exclusive
development of the intelligence and the neglect of the
emotions has over-stimulated the self-regarding instincts and
has largely destroyed the feelings of social and National
Dharma, of duty to society and to the nation; hence, the
decay of public spirit, of social service, of responsibility
and of sacrifice for the common weal, which characterized the
good 'citizen' as distinguished from the good 'man'" (Besant,
1925, pp. 17-18). There had been a great waste and ineffec-
tiveness throughout the whole educational system. It was more
pronounced in the case of the girls than boys. It was stated
by a leading missionary-educator in India that in the year
1900 only three girls out of every hundred of school age were
enrolled in any school in comparison to one boy out of every
five of school age enrolled (Zellner, 1951, p. viii) .
Thus, by the time Tagore was born, the indigenous system
of education had been considerably eclipsed by the new type
of English schools. English had attained the first place in
order of precedence and importance among the subjects of
study, gradually driving the study of the vernaculars into
the shade. Elementary mass education had come to be neglected
whereas higher education at the secondary schools or the
universities for the upper class received encouragement
(Mukherji, 1966, p. 6). The shadow of illiteracy had, thus,
gradually deepened and spread wider in the country, and an
ever-widening gulf was created between the fortunate upper
classes and the vast masses of the people. Education had
come to be valued mainly because of the economic and social
advantages it brought. Even university education had acquired
the same mercenary significance. The English medium of in-
struction and examination encouraged thoughtless cramming of
ill-digested subject-matter and joyful free pursuit of
knowledge largely went by default.
Even during his early years when he insisted on- accom-
panying his brothers, Tagore was made aware of the hard
reality of school life. "You are crying to go to school now,"
said one brother, "you will soon cry much more to stay at
home" (Sykes, 1943, p. 11) . And soon Rabindranath found out
school was another prison, much more dreary than home and he
named it his "Andamans," when he looked back on those days.
"The rooms were cruelly dismal with their walls on guard like
policemen. The house was more like a pigeon-holed box than
a human habitation. No decoration, no pictures, not a touch
of colour, not an attempt to attract the boyish heart. The
fact that likes and dislikes form a large part of the child's
mind was completely ignored. Naturally our whole being was
depressed as we stepped through its doorway into the narrow
quadrangle—and playing truant became chronic with us"
(Tagore, 19l7tv PP- 60-61). Hard benches and dull prison-like
walls of schools used to confine children from 10 to 4.
When a child could not repeat his lesson, he was punished
severely. "The master," says Rabindranath, "looked like a
cane incarnate." The textbooks of English that were common
at that time and persisted for more than half a century
thereafter, made matters worse still. The books without any
illustrations and with the ugly looking words, spelled with
divided syllables and 'accent marks like raised bayonets'
completed the dreariness of the whole pursuit" (Tagore,
1917b, p. 43) .
Not only the school environment or books but the teachers
were similarly bad. Reminiscing about one of the incidents
of his childhood, when Tagore (1917b) used to act like a
teacher in front of wooden benches of the house, he explains,
"I have since realized how much easier it is to acquire the
manner than the matter. Without an effort had I assimilated
all the impatience, the short temper, the partiality and
the injustice displayed by my teachers to the exclusion of
the rest of their teaching. My only consolation is that I
had not the power of venting these barbarities on any sentient
creature. Nevertheless, the difference between my wooden
pupils and those of the Seminary did not prevent my psychology
from being identical with that of its school masters" (p. 31).
During his talks to Victoria Ocampo about schooling,
Rabindranath mentioned the disparity of school systems of his
childhood days. "How distasteful so much of my own education
was when I first went to a school near my home in Calcutta.
I had no background at all. I was asked to accept masses of
information for which I was not in the least ready. Nature
has methods of its own in these matters, but my school-
masters had theirs which were quite different. In the fight
between us, we children suffered excruciating pain "(Tagore,
1963-1964, p. 276). To be successful in this type of
schooling was the desired goal of Indian society at that time.
Rabindranath realized in his early youth that not being able
to keep up with school routine and curriculum had depreciated
his value in the eyes of the society. He recalls his eldest
sister saying, "We had all hoped that Rabi would grow up to
be a man, but he has disappointed us the worst." Still he
cpuld not make up his mind, "to be tied to the eternal grind
of the school mill which, divorced as it was from all life
and beauty, seemed such a hideously cruel combination of
hospital and gaol" (Tagore, 1917b, p. 108).
Thus, Tagore 's reminiscences along with other historical
accounts show that educational reform was a hard challenging
road on which Tagore had decided to work. His aims of educa-
tion, and his discussion of ideal education, are inwardly
related to his memories. They formed the foundation of his
famous school at Santiniketan, where Tagore tried to overcome
these weaknesses of the school system in applying his philoso-
phy of education.
Aims of Education
Tagore, not being an educationist in the strict academic
sense, did not talk about the aim of education in a well
formulated logical way. His statements scattered in his
writings do give some idea about his philosophy. In Laksys
O'Siksa, Aims & Education, a letter written in August, 1912,
Tagore makes it clear that the aims and ideals in the life of
a nation should first be clearly apprehended and formulated
before its educational system is determined for "What we want
to be and what we want to learn are inseparably connected
together" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 131). A survey of Tagore's
educational writings makes it clear that in some places he
has clearly mentioned the aims but in other places they have
to be inferred from contexts. It also becomes clear that
though he never talked about them in a unified way, they have
an integral unity. Tagore had developed a well integrated
view of life and of the role of education in it and his object
in establishing a group of institutions was to find a worthy
educational medium for the expression and implementation of
his ideas. These were not just a collection of attractive
and high-sounding views on various unconnected problems of
life, but represented an attempt to see life steadily and
see it whole and interpret the relationship between its
various fascinating and complex aspects. The aims of educa-
tion prescribed by him did not emerge from a world outside
but emerged from his experience, practice and experiments.
Here for the clarity of subject it is planned to present
his broad, all-inclusive, comprehensive aim first and then
his minor aims will follow.
According to Tagore the broad inclusive aim of education
is the development of all the potential faculties of an
individual leading to an all-round, harmonious develoj^nent of
his personality. This broad aim was the product of his
philosophy towards life, that is of total acceptance of life.
This is the reason that he mentioned, "The highest education
is that which makes our life in harmony with all existences"
(Tagore, 1917g, p. 142). Harmony with all existences can
be achieved only when all the faculties of an individual have
been developed to the highest pitch of perfection. "Man's
education," he categorically affirms, "aims at keeping alive
to the last moment of life that infinite aspiration which is
necessary for developing into full manhood. To attain full
manhood is the ultimate end of education; everything else
is subordinate to it" (Tagore, 1326 B.S,.a). Early childhood
experiences of school life made him believe that the educa-
tional system of that time was not concerned with the growth
of children, it was rather preparing children for a society
of clerks. Since that time Tagore had been aware of this
discrepancy and tried to build an institution where children
would have more freedom to explore and learn by themselves
in the open learning environment of nature. In his very
first educational writing, 'Siksar Herpher, ' he advocated a
free, joyous, spontaneous life of impulses for young children
in the twofold field of nature and imagination so that it may
serve to make their body alert and develop them in all
respects (Tagore, 1351 B.S.). In another article, 'Siksa
Saraasya,' he mentioned the "laying of the foundation of human
personality as a whole 'to be the aim of education'" (Tagore,
1351 B.S., p. 51) .
Thus all other aims prescribed by Tagore at different
places mainly emphasize the aim of complete personality
growth. He believed that all faculties of human beings,
intellectual, physical, moral, aesthetic should be nurtured,
cultivated in a good educational system. He emphasized the
cultivation of intellect in order to counterbalance emotional
immaturity and instability where it exists, and he appreciated
the contribution that western science can make to the progress
of India. He strongly believed that if reason, with its
uncompromising dedication to truth is not reinstated on its
lonely pedestal, rejecting superstition and the undue cult
of the supernatural in every field, neither education nor the
general intellectual life of the people will be released from
its fetters. However, this intellectual cultivation, power
of reasoning cannot be gained through mere book reading.
He was aware that "since childhood, instead of putting all
the burden on the memory, the power of thinking, and the
power of imagination should also be given opportunities for
free exercise" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 12). He not only
condemned the bookish learning but always stressed the
importance of the ability to learn directly from Nature and
Life. This learning cannot be receptive, a person should be
able to use what he learns through different sources. "We
pass from childhood to adolescence, from adolescence to youth,
carrying a load of number of mere words and phrases" (Tagore,
1351 B.S., p. 13). "True education, " he pointed out,
"consists of knowing the use of any useful material that has
been collected, to know its real nature and to build along
with life a real shelter for life" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 12).
Not only was Tagore concerned with the education of the
intellect, but also he was duly conscious of the education of
the body. In fact, he attached so much importance to the
healthy physical development of children in early years that
he eloquently advocated their free, spontaneous movements and
play in joyous natural surroundings, even at the expense of
studies, if necessary. "Even if they learnt nothing," he says,
they would have had ample time for play, climbing trees,
diving into ponds, plucking and tearing flowers, perpetrating
thousand and one mischiefs on Mother Nature, they would have
obtained the nourishment of the body, happiness of mind, and
the satisfaction of the natural impulses of childhood"
(Tagore, 1351 B.S., pp. 9-10).
Tagore has given religion a place of high importance in
education, but for him it did not involve the formal teaching
of any religious dogma. True religiousness, he believed, is
as natural as respiration; it is as much a vital part of our
being as breathing. Religious training for him is a spirit,
an inspiration, pervading every aspect of human life, affirm-
ing its relationship with the highest of values and giving man
a sense of kinship with the Real. If education fails to
cultivate the quality of human understanding and strengthen
the sense of human unity, then that education is considered
superficial and misguided. Similarly, Tagore emphasized the
importance of discipline in a moral life and he suggested
that real discipline means protection of raw, natural impulses
from unhealthy excitement and growth in undesirable directions.
Tagore 's moral and spiritual aims of education were varied
in nature. He advocated the power of self-determination,
the ideal of peace and tranquility, liberation of self from
all kinds of slavery, and his educational institutions pro-
vided opportunity for it. He said, "The character of good
education is that it does not overpower man; it emancipates
him" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 62).
Tagore believed in social aims of education too.
Sociability and human fellow-feeling was considered as an
indispensable equipment of a truly educated person. He
regretted that people were living in an artificial world of
books and not in the real world of living men and women.
"We have become learned, but have ceased to be human" (Tagore,
1351 B.S., p. 71). "Pursuit of knowledge," he said, "should
be supplemented by living and loving contact. For the
fundamental purpose of education is not merely to enrich
ourselves through the fullness of knowledge, but also to
establish the bond of love and friendship between man and
man." So long as we do not come down to the level of the
common man and feel a bond of kinship with the poor and the
lowly and the lost, he insisted, our education will be sadly
incomplete. This idea of fellow-feeling was not limited to
one ' s own countrymen but spread the message of inter-
nationalism in Tagore 's writing.
This social aim gets expression in Tagore 's message
for the education of the feeling or 'Bodher Sadhana ' as he
puts it. He felt sorry that education of sympathy was
not only systematically ignored in schools, but was severely
repressed, because we may become powerful by knowledge, but
we attain fullness by sympathy. The highest education is
that which does not merely give us information but makes
our life in harmony with all existence (Tagore, 1917c, p. 142).
From the discussion it is clear that Tagore aimed at
a perfection in education which is not only that of body or
mind, but also that of soul. "For us to maintain our self-
respect which we owe to ourselves and to our Creator, we
must make the purpose of our education. . .the fullest growth
and freedom of soul" (Tagore, 1917q pp. 157-158). For the
attainment of this aim, he emphasized on intellectual,
physical, moral and social development of an individual.
At various places in his writings, Rabindranath has
mentioned his concept of ideal education. His references
to ideal education cover the description of ideal atmos-
phere, institution, teacher, and method. In his famous
article, 'My School, ' he wrote, "Living ideals can never be
set into a clockwork arrangement giving accurate account of
its every second" (Tagore, 1917cv p. 178). Due to this
reasoning it is difficult to explain his concept of ideal
education in a purely academic way. While discussing
Tagore 's educational ideals, Alex Aronson noted that the
perfect education given to the child should, therefore, be
like the perfect poem: self contained, unified, and controlled
by the ever-recurring rhythm of natural growth from childhood
to manhood, — while the perfect teacher would indeed resemble
the poet insofar as he gives shape, in complete freedom from
convention, to the mind of the young by creating images of
beauty and significance out of the raw material of experience
and by interpreting nature in its manifold aspects to those
that are unsophisticated and, therefore, still impressionable
enough to absorb its meaning and adjust themselves to the
message (Aronson, 1962, p. 385).
For Tagore it was not the formal method of teaching
which was the most important part of an ideal education, but
it was the atmosphere which surrounded the educational pattern.
He believed that it is absolutely necessary for children's
mental health and development that they must not have mere
schools for their lessons, but a world whose guiding spirit
is personal love. It must be an ashram where men have
gathered for the highest end of life, in the peace of nature,
where life is not merely meditative, but fully awake in its
activities (Tagore, 1917:, pp. 178-179) . It is due to this
that any description of such a school would be inadequate.
It is not some place v^ich can be described in terms of
fixed rules and regulations or curriculum. Here children
are living in the atmosphere of culture and school is not
imposed on them by autocratic authorities. Education is no
longer instruction, it is a process of inspiration and joyous
but slow absorption, and in his school Tagore "tried to create
an atmosphere. . .giving it the principal place in our pro-
gramme of teaching" (Tagore, 1946, p. 13).
Similarly, an ideal institution, in his view, should
provide children with the first important lesson of "improvisa-
tion" and with "constant occasions to explore one's capacity
through surprises of achievement." There is no place for
constant imposition of ready-made ideas and knowledge. "I must
make it plain that this means a lesson not in simple life, but
in a creative life. For life may grow complex, and yet if
there is a living personality in its center, it will have the
unity of creation, it will carry its own weight in perfect
grace, and will not be a mere addition to the number of
facts that only goes to swell a crowd" (Tagore, 1931b, p.
179) . The more man acts and makes actual what was latent in
him, the nearer does he bring the distant yet-to-be. In
that actualization, man is ever making himself more and yet
more distinct, and seeing himself clearly under ever new
aspects in the midst of his varied activities. Analyzing this
particular concept of Tagore ' s philosophy, V. S. Naravane
in his book talked about Tagore's ethics and mentioned that
Tagore has advocated a creative middle path between activism
and asceticism, between God intoxication and work-intoxica-
tion, between the outer and the inner, between doing and
arriving. This middle path is the path of self-realization
or Sadhana and this part has been emphasized most in Tagore's
ideal institution (Naravane, 1965, p. 131) .
Ideal education can be imparted only through ideal
teachers. For Tagore it was difficult to understand "why
should masters always expect boys to be so exact? 'Don't
guess,' says the master. But why not? Guessing is one of
nature's methods of helping us to learn, especially when we
are young, and we teachers try to kill it. I say to my
pupils, "Can't you guess? And then I give them three or
four chances. But the very efficient teachers tell me this
is sin" (Tagore, 1963-1964, p. 278). According to him the
greater part of our learning in the schools has been wasted
because, for most of our teachers, their subjects are like
dead specimens of once-living things with which they have a
learned acquaintance, but no communication of life and love.
"The teacher who merely repeats bookish knowledge mechanically
can never teach anything and can never inspire, and without
proper inspiration independent creative faculties can never
develop"^ (pp. 266-267) .
Thus, true education, he asserts, develops the power
of self-reliance, the ability to do without materials and
the machine. It is essential to realize that the value of
one's pair of legs which cost nothing is far greater than
that of the machine which costs much. Tagore explains,
once when India was rich in culture, it didn't fear about
material wealth of other countries and was not ashamed of her
situation because her aim was inner growth and education at
that time tried to achieve that. It is true that to some
extent practical knowledge is necessary so that both spiritual
and practical knowledge can make a full man, but at present
in education culture, inner growth is lacking and even the
practical knowledge is limited to certain skills. In absence
of culture, today's educated is almost like a lame man who
by riding on a bike feels that there is nothing to worry about
his leg. Only when his bike is broken that he realizes he is
helpless. The man who praises possession of materials only
does not know how poor he is. This does not mean that bikes
do not have any value, biit two living legs have more value
than that. The education which strengthens the living legs
is real education, the education which increases man's
dependence on materials is only an instrument of stupidity
(Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 224).
The ideal of the Ashram education, for which he stood
was education for life at its fullest. His ideal was to train
young men and women in freedom and strength, in courage and
service. According to him, books make the mind lazy. The child
should be exposed to an atmosphere of creativity and learning,
to a world of experiences. "For the first twelve years we
must educate the child's mind along the line of its own
natural tendencies and instincts and only then, at twelve
years old, introduce the books" (Tagore, 1946, p. 13). He
believed in the increased ability of reasoning, rationalizing
because "in educational organization our reasoning faculties
have to be nourished in order to allow our mind its freedom in
the world of truth, our imagination for the world which belongs
to art, and our sympathy for the world of human relationships"
(Tagore, 1946, p. 13). Ideal education should be peripatetic,
because the best of all education is to come, to know our
fellow beings intimately. . .what is better for boys than to
travel, to record facts as they travel, to collect objects
for their private museums and thereby to teach themselves.
This will enhance their power of thinking and they will be
able to store useful facts in their minds easily. "A boy
with that kind of training can enter the world of books
fully equipped" (Tagore, 1963-1964, p. 277) . For this
kind of training Tagore never believed in compulsion, but
tried to give the best side of human nature a chance to show
itself. Everything in the school he left to the initiative
of the pupils, though they were always in close touch with
their elders. He wrote, "We have to keep in mind the fact
that love and action are the only intermediaries through which
perfect knowledge can be obtained, for the object of knowl-
edge is not pedantry, but wisdom. The primary object of an
institution should not be merely to educate one's limbs and
mind to be in efficient readiness for all emergencies, but to
be in perfect tune, in the sympathy of response between life
and world, to find the balance of their harmony which is
wisdom" (Tagore, 1931b, p. 178).
Tagore 's concept of ideal education included the
discussion of ideal education, ideal atmosphere, institu-
tion, teacher and method. For him all these are
interrelated and one cannot obtain ideal education unless
other factors are available. His concept of ideal educa-
tion is in traditions with the ideals of Hindu education,
in which the main idea was to bring to the humblest man
the highest products of human mind and heart. It did
not aim at literacy but it aimed at character formation, and
for this kind of ideal education undoubtedly, essential
elements are atmosphere, institution, teacher and method.
Conqruency Between Education
Tagore has stressed the strong relationship of education
and society throughout his writings. In Siksar Herpher, he
wrote, "Education, in order to be living and dynamic, should
be broad based on and organically linked with the life of
the community" (Tagore, 1351, B.S., p. 15) . For him education
did not mean the ability to read and write, it was more like
a transmission of culture. The process of educating meant a
knowledge of the past heritage, involvement in living dynamic
present and construction of future. It is a continuous,
on-going process and that is one of the reasons he believed
that "the education of a country acquires shape and substance
only against the entire background, otherwise, it remains
vague and incomplete" (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 234).
During his trip to Russia, in 1930, Tagore was very
much impressed by the educational development of that country
and letters written to several friends during that period
shed a light on his social philosophy of education. He felt
that all the suffering which was standing like a rock on
the bosom of India was based only on the want of education.
Russia had the same evils as India but one force alone has
helped their progress, and that is their education" (Tagore,
1970). The Russians started their experiment on the primary
assumption that no reforms would be lasting unless the human
material was improved, which led them to concentrate on
educational objectives with so much vigor and thoroughness.
It is education, he asserts, that infused faith, courage, and
enthusiasm into the masses. It is education again that raised
the level of the intelligence of the entire nation, stirred
their curiosity, emancipated them from age-old prejudices and
made them receptive to new impulses towards the path of
progress (Tagore, 1970) .
Regarding India he believed that along with education,
economic uplift is necessary. Since economic life covers
the whole width of the fundamental basis of society because
its necessities are the simplest and the most universal, he
suggested that educational institutions, in order to obtain
their fullness of truth, must have close associations with
this economic life. . .our university must not only instruct,
but live; not only think, but produce" (Tagore, 1922^ p. 191)
It is essential that a center of learning is not only the
center of intellectual life but also a center of country's
economic life. "Its very existence should depend upon the
success of its industrial activities carried out on the co-
operative principle, which will unite the teachers and
students and villagers of the neighbourhood in a living and
active bond of necessity" (Tagore, 1922a, pp. 92-103) .
Tagore started the school in Sriniketan to put his
theory into practice and the objectives set for the Department
of Rural Reconstruction and Village Economics give a good in-
sight into his theory. Some of the objectives of this
1. To take the problems of the village and field
to the classroom for study and discussion and
to the experimental farm for solution.
2. To carry the knowledge and experience gained in
the classroom and experimental farm to the
villages, in the endeavour to improve their sani-
tation and health, develop their resources and
credit; help them to sell their produce and buy
- their requirements to the best advantage; teach
them better methods of growing crops and vegeta-
bles and keeping livestock; encourage them to
learn and practice arts and crafts and bring
home to them the benefits of associated life,
mutual aid and common endeavour.
3. To work out practically an all-round system of
elementary education in the villages based on
the Boy Scout ideal and training with the object
of developing ideas of citizenship and public
duty such as may appeal to the villagers and
be within their means and capacity.
4. To train the students to a due sense of their
own intrinsic worth, physical and moral and
in particular to teach them to do with their
own hands everything which a village house-
holder or cultivator does or should do for a
living, if possible, more efficiently.
5. To put the student in the way of acquiring
practical experience in cultivation, poultry
and beekeeping, dairying, and animal husbandry;
carpentry and smithing, weaving, and tannery;
in practical sanitation work and in the art
and spirit of cooperation.
6. To give students elementary instruction in
, the sciences connected with this practical
work, to train them to think and observe
accurately and to express and record the
knowledge acquired by them for their own
benefit and that of their fellowmen.
(Tagore, 1922b) .
Tagore tried not only to relate economy and education
but he believed in the influence of society on children and
thus education, because all problems of social reform are
interconnected and no educational experiment can succeed
unless the vicious circle that connects society and educa-
tion will be broken once for all and be replaced by a
virtuous one. "We cannot underrate the great influence
exercised on the child's mind by the values that prevail
in the society in which he is born and brought up. If these
values be perverted, no sort or amount of formal education
can save the child from their disruptive effect. For these
values affect the mind as subtly and surely as the physical
climate acts on the body. Good education of children is not
possible unless good ideals govern the society. Methods of
education may be modern and scientific, but they will only
chain and debase the mind more effectively if the purposes
they serve are ignoble. Educationists, therefore, must remain
more or less helpless in an age where collective greed is
glorified as patriotism and inhuman butchery is made the
measure of heroism" (Tagore, 1938) .
Similarly, an ideal education is bound to fail if the
children brought up in an ideal environment are unable to
readjust themselves to the actually existing social and
economic patterns of contemporary society and due to that
Tagore found it necessary to have a complete program of
education including art, as well as manual labor or craft-
manship. Stating at the outset that the prosperity of a
country depends on the proper education of the common people,
Tagore postulates the aim of such education as follows:
"Their education will have to be so devised from the beginning
that they may understand clearly what is meant by public
welfare and may also be practically equipped in all respects
for earning their livelihood" (Rabindra Racanavali, 1939,
The complete discussion of Tagore's theory and its
background reveals that it was a challenging road on which
Tagore had decided to work. His magnificent genius, his
incomparably sensitive and catholic mind, and the best
features of India's noble cultural heritage, have all combined
to lend to his own conception a richness and profundity
a range, depth, and fullness that serves to make it a unique
contribution to educational philosophy in this direction.
His greatness is realized more when it is remembered that
these thoughts were developed and largely translated into
practice under conditions when educational theory in the
country was mostly confined to technical problems of organi-
zation and administration and educational practice constituted
a vast unrelieved stretch of a dreary desert sand of dead
routine and lifeless formalism. Tagore's theory of educa-
tion was radically different from the prevailing one and he
sought to emancipate it from its decadent formalism and
tragic frustration. He reoriented the educational theory
with a new purposefulness vitality and freedom. His ex-
periments, in the school guided the path for regeneration in
the field of education.
The report of the Collector of Bellary, addressed to
the president of the Board of Revenue, Fort St. George,
mentioned, "The greater part of the middling and lower classes
of the people are now unable to defray the expenses incident
upon the education of their offsprings. Of the 533 institu-
tions for education now existing in this District, I am
ashamed to say not one now derives any support from the State.
Considerable alienations of revenue, which formerly did
honor to the State, by upholding and encouraging learning,
have deteriorated under our rule into the means of supporting
ignorance." It was published in Mr. A. D. Campbell's Letter,
dated 17 Aug. 1823, Vide Minutes of Evidences, etc.. Vol. 1,
^This is quoted from the article "Bhartiya Visva-
Vidyalayer Adarsh" which was reprinted in 1342 B.S. edition
of Siksa only.
PRACTICAL ASPECTS OF TAGORE'S THEORY
Origin and Development of
Tagore's educational theory was put into practice in
his school at Santiniketan. A short history of the insti-
tute will reveal how it grew to its present size as a
natural, continual growth of Tagore's desire to seek full-
ness in education. The whole institution was not planned
at the outset but as Tagore felt the necessity to add new
divisions, it kept on growing, and even after his death
other administrators tried to do the same, by keeping the
central goal of the university alive.
In December 1901, an experimental school known as
Brahmacharyashram was started by Rabindranath with only five
students on the roll. About the origin of the school, he
wrote in The Teacher, "The solitary enjoyment of the in-
finite in meditation no longer satisfied me, and the text
which I used for my silent worship lost its inspiration
without my knowing it. I am sure, I vaguely felt that my
need was spiritual self-realization in the life of Man
through some disinterested service. This was the time when
I founded an educational institution for our children in
Bengal. It has a special character of its own which is
still struggling to find its fulfillment, for it is a living
temple that I have attempted to build for my divinity. In
such a place education necessarily becomes the preparation
for a complete life of man which can only become possible
by living that life through knowledge and service, enjoy-
ment and creative work" (Tagore, 1931b pp- 165-166) . Thus,
the founding of the school was part of the education in
fullness. Beginning with his own unhappy memory of school,
which he described as a blend of hospital and gaol, he con-
centrated on children and emphasized creativity, the need
for atmosphere and natural surroundings. The aim was
neither ascetic nor revivalistic but integrative. He re-
ceived blessings from very few of his friends, relatives
and countrymen, most of whom derided his project as an out-
come of his poetic fancy, as "something outrageously new
being the product of daring experience" (Tagore, 1917q, p. 137)
Nevertheless, he succeeded in gathering around him a band
of selfless workers and the management of the school was
carried on along simple democratic lines through a committee
almost entirely elected by the staff. Education was entirely
free. The curriculum included English, Bengali, Sanskrit,
Arithmetic, History, Geography, and Science. All work like
housekeeping, gardening, except cooking, had to be done by
the pupils themselves. Life was simple, regular and austere
and was inspired by the ideals of hospitality, self-help and
respect for the elders. Rathindranath, Tagore's son and one
of the oldest students reminisced, "It would now sound as
exaggeration, but it is none the less quite true that we
felt some joy in that easy and austere life devoid of any
material luxury" (Thakur, 1349 B.S., p. 270). During the
first four years of the life of the institution, management
changed hands a number of times , each time with little
success of a lasting character. Notwithstanding these
administrative shortcomings, the school did enjoy some
spells of happy and fruitful activities. Free life in open
nature and intimate contact with its various beauties and
phenomena were most happy as well as profitable experiences
for the young children. The recreational hours in the
evenings spent in story-telling, watching the stars, singing,
and performing plays, some of them composed by the pupils
themselves, passed delightfully.
The number of students in the school continued
to increase. By 1916 it was about 150 (Pearson, 1916, p. 30).
This increase in student population necessitated immediate
extension of school buildings and expansion of grounds and
facilities. In 1908 the girls' section was added. Although
according to syllabus prescribed textbooks had to be studied
at the Matriculation classes, stereotyped textbooks were dis-
carded and copious upgraded general reading was encouraged.
Thorough attention was paid to the health of the students.
Games and gardening were compulsory. Though the school
unfairly enough enjoyed the unenviable reputation of being
an exile for problem children, corporal punishment was pro-
hibited on principle and very seldom actually resorted to.
Tagore has always recognized the necessity for a close
association between a country's education and the economic
life of its people. He bought a big house with about 25
acres of land at Surul in October 1912 for the establishment
of a village uplift center and agricultural research and it
was known as Rural Reconstruction Department of Sriniketan.
Thus he succeeded in bringing the students and workers of
Santiniketan into close touch with the daily life of the
common people through the activities of the centre.
After his tour of Japan and America in December 1918,
the poet began expounding the ideas which had been in his
mind of creating an institution which would be a true center
for all the different cultures of the East. He thought of
Santiniketan as a place, where the ideals of life and wisdom
contributed to the world by the different countries of Asia
would be cultivated; where the wealth of ancient learning
might be brought into living contact with modern influences .
The name Visva-Bharati came into existence at this time and
its motto — Yatra Visvam Bhavatyekanidam, where the world
makes its home in a single nest — ^was chosen.
From 1919, arrangements were made for providing courses
of higher studies in Buddhist literature, Vedic and Classical
Sanskrit, Pali, Prakrit and later on the studies in Tibetan,
Chinese, Jain, Zoroastrian and Islamic. Rabindranath had
already introduced the teaching of art and music, and now, Kala
Bhavan (School of Art and Music) was established at Visva-
The idea of establishing a center of learning where not
only the East but the whole world would meet in cultural
communion took a more definite shape during his tour of
foreign countries immediately after World War I. When he
returned to India in 1921 he had before him a three-fold
To concentrate at Santiniketan, within
the Asrama Vidyalaya, the different
cultures of the East, especially those that
had originated in India or found shelter
To lay at Sriniketan the foundation of
a happy, contented and humane life in
the village; and finally.
Through Visva-Bharati as a whole, to seek
to establish a living relationship between
the East and the West, to promote inter-
racial amity and inter-cultural understanding
and fulfill the highest mission of the
present age — the unification of mankind.
(Visva-Bharati, 1961, p. 42)
The formal inauguration of the Visva-Bharati took
place in December 1921, at a meeting presided over by
Brajendranath Seal. Since then Santiniketan has been the
seat of Visva-Bharati — an international university, seeking
to develop a basis on which the cultures of the East and
the West may meet in common fellowship (Visva-Bharati, 1961,
p. 42). Soon a constitution was drafted for the newly
formed Visva-Bharati and it was adopted in May 1922.
According to it, all activities of Santiniketan and
Sriniketan were taken over by Visva-Bharati, and the main
school became the Purva-Vibhaga which was later on changed
into Patha-Bhavana; the institute for higher studies — the
Uttara-Vibhaga was later on split up into two departments,
Vidya Bhavan, which concerned itself mainly with research
work and studies of different eastern cultures, and
Siksha-Bhavan, imparting collegiate education up to the
graduation level. The music and art sections were separated
in 1934 and the music section became the Sangeet Bhavana,
while the art section retained its old name, Kala Bhavana.
In the late thirties, two more departments, Cheena -Bhavana
and Hindi Bhavana were established with endowments for
Chinese and Hindi studies.
After the death of Rabindranath in 1941, Rabindra-
Bhavana was established in July 1942, as a Research Academy
and Memorial Museum. In 1948, another department, Vinaya-
Bhavana, was established under the basic education training
scheme. In May 1951, four years after the independence of
India, Visva-Bharati was declared to be an institution of
national importance and was incorporated as a unitary teach-
ing and residential university by Act XXIX of 1951 of the
Indian Parliament. During the course of the debate on the
bill the government with a view to allaying apprehensions
in the public mind, gave assurance that it was their earnest
desire that the institution should not lose the uniqueness
of its character. Jawaharlal Nehru was appointed the first
Acharya (Chancellor) and Rathindranath Tagore, Ravindranath's
son, the first Upacharya (Vice-chancellor) of the University.
Main Divisions of the Institution
Previous discussion indicates that once the constitu-
tion was formed, various activities of the school were
categorized under different sections of Visva-Bharati.
Though as the institution kept on growing these sections have
been changing to provide more room for new expanded curricu-
lum. Patha-Bhavana (Patha-Bhavana, 1939) gives a description
of various departments in 1939. According to it, Visva-
Bharati comprised Pathabhavana (school) , Sikshabhavana
(college) , Vidyabhavana (School of Research and Indology) ,
Cheena Bhavana (School of Sino-Indian Buddhist Studies) ,
Kala Bhavana (School of Fine Arts) , Sangeet Bhavana
(School of Indian Music and Dancing) , and Sriniketan
(Institute of Rural Reconstruction and Handicrafts) , with
general and special libraries attached to the departments.
One of the many advantages available to students is that a
student by joining any one of the educational departments
is allowed the benefit of attending courses in any other
department, if he or she shows marked aptitude for such
courses, without having to pay any extra fees. The present
discussion of different divisions of Visva-Bharati will give
a detailed account of courses and opportunities offered at
the institute. Tagore tried to present a wider choice of
subject matter and activities to his students and by doing so
he intended to present an integrated education — education as
an expression of intellectual abilities, aesthetic abilities
and most of all an education which was related to life also.
Visva-Bharati maintains the following departments
which are all co-educational and residential.
Patha-Bhavana (The School)
Formerly known as Brahmacharyasrara, this is the nucleus
around which Visva-Bharati has grown. The school places
emphasis riot so much on mere acquisition of knowledge as
on a full and harmonic development of the child. Close
personal contact with the teacher, the influence of nature
and environment, the atmosphere of freedom and joy, the
practical training given in cooperation and self-government,
the effort made to develop the self-expressive side of the
child-mind through social, literary, and artistic activities,
supervision of physical activities and organization of
excursions — are some of the special features of the school.
Patha-Bhavana which used to train students up to the
matriculation' standard of Calcutta University along with
the Adya Certificate Examination of the Visva-Bharati now
prepares students for the Higher School Certificate Course,
which is an 11-year school course (Visva-Bharati, 1973,
There is a variety of subjects offered in Patha-
Bhavana. Among them, Bengali, English, Sanskrit/Mathematics,
Social Studies and General Science are compulsory. Elec-
tive subjects include: (a) Humanities — Bengali/Sanskrit/
Hindi/Oriya, History, Civics and Economics, Ethics and
Psychology, Vocal music. Instrumental music. Dancing, Draw-
ing, Painting and Modelling, Home Science, Geography,
Mathematics; (b) Science — Physics, Chemistry, Biology,
Mathematics, Geography. The medium of instruction in Patha-
Bhavana is Bengali, though special arrangements are made for
non-Bengali students at a minimal extra-charge. The minimum
age limit for admission is 6 years and the upper age limit
is 12 years. Physical training and games are compulsory
for all students. In the case of students in classes IX,
X, and XI, the maintenance of at least 75 per cent of
attendance in physical training and games classes is a
requirement for admission to the Higher School Certificate
This particular division of Visva-Bharati has gone
through several changes over the years. Before the incor-
poration of the Visva-Bharati as a University, it used to
provide collegiate education up to the graduation level.
Although it was not affiliated with the Calcutta University,
students of Siksha-Bhavana were allowed to appear at
examinations conducted by that University as private candi-
dates by special arrangement. It also provided for a Visva-
Bharati diploma, Madhya and Antya diplomas, which were
equivalent to the intermediate and graduate degrees of
chartered universities . According to "Visva-Bharati and
Its Institutions" (Visva-Bharati, 1961, p. 47), it was a
college of undergraduate and graduate studies which provided
(1) instruction for three year B.Sc. (Honors) course in
Mathematics with Physics and Chemistry as subsidiary sub-
jects; (2) instruction for three year B.A. (Honors) course
in Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, Sanskrit, English, History,
Ancient Indian History and Culture, Economics and Philosophy;
(3) two year certificate course followed by one year diploma
course in Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, Sanskrit, Chinese, Japanese,
Tibetan, French, German, and English; (4) one year preparatory
course in Arts subjects leading to a three year degree
course for such students who have successfully completed a
ten year school course.
At present Siksha-Bhavana is functioning as the college
of science (Visva-Bharati, 1973, p. 13) and provides
instruction for (1) a three year B.Sc. (Honors) course;
(2) two year M.Sc. course. (Only Honors graduates of Visva-
Bharati and other recognized universities will ordinarily
be admitted to the M.Sc. course, subject to availability
of seats in the respective departments.); (3) two year
research studies leading to the Ph.D. degree in any of the
subjects in which instruction is provided by Siksha-Bhavana.
Subjects taught in Siksha-Bhavana include Mathematics,
Chemistry, Physics, Botany and Zoology.
Along with Siksha-Bhavana, Vidya-Bhavana also went
through several changes. It started with a school of
research and Indology and was converted into a school of
post-graduate studies and research offering a M.A. degree
in Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, Sanskrit, History, Ancient Indian
History and Culture, Economics and Philosophy, and two year
research studies leading to a Ph.D. in any subject in which
instruction is provided.
Vidya-Bhavana, now also known as the College of
Humanities (Visva-Bharati, 1973, p. 13), is of diverse
nature. It offers instruction for:
1. A two year M.A. course in Bengali, English,
Hindi, Oriya, Sanskrit, History, Ancient
Indian History and Culture, Economics,
Philosophy, Mathematics and Chinese.
2. (a) Three year b.A. (Honors) course in Bengali,
English, Hindi, Oriya, Sanskrit, History
Ancient Indian History and Culture,
Geography, Economics, Philosophy, Com-
parative Religion and Mathematics.
(b) Four year B.A. (Honors) course in Chinese.
3. Three year B.S.W. (Honors) course in Social
Work. This course provides instruction in
Social Work with a foundation in general
education and social services and equips
students for careers in the field of Social
Welfare and community Development. The
Department of Social Work is located at
4. Two year Certificate Course in Language
followed by a one year Diploma Course in
Bengali, Hindi, Oriya, Sanskrit, Pali, Arabic,
Tibetan, Chinese, Japanese, French and
5. One year Certificate Course in Library
6. Two year research studies leading to the
Ph.D. degree in any of the subjects in which
instruction is provided by Vidya-Bhavana,
Centre of Advanced
Study in Philosophy
The Centre provides instruction for the post-graduate
course in Philosophy and the undergraduate course in
Philosophy and Comparative Religion and also provides
adequate facilities for research both in Indian and Western
Philosophy and Religion. The Centre organizes two All India
Seminars each year besides weekly seminars for research
scholars and teachers. The Centre also invites visiting
professors and scholars from other Indian Universities and
of Taqore Studies and Research)
It provides facilities for the study of and research
into the life and works of Rabindranath Tagore and his
manifold contributions to the diverse fields of human en-
deavor. It provides facilities for research studies leading
to the Ph.D. degree in accordance with the Ordinance of the
University governing the same.
(College of Education)
The Vinaya-Bhavana started functioning in September
1948. This department concerned itself mainly with the
training of specialist teachers for arts, crafts, and music
for the basic training schools, general teachers for the
training schools under the basic training scheme, and
teachers for primary and secondary schools. Now it provides
instruction for the degrees of B.Ed, and M.Ed. — both courses
being of one year's duration. A special feature of the B.Ed,
course is training in crafts and other practical and creative
activities. In addition to the usual subjects, marked
emphasis is placed on the practical aspects of the course.
While the B.Ed, course is open to B.A./B.Sc. or equivalent
degree holders, preference is given to teachers and to per-
sons with high academic attainments. Only graduates with
degrees in teacher training are eligible for admission to
the M.Ed, course. The College of Education also offers
instruction in education as a subsidiary subject to those
who take up Honors in any subject offered by the Vidya-
Bhavana. It also offers two-year research studies leading
to the Ph.D. degree in Education to candidates who hold the
M.Ed, or M.A. degree in Education.
Through a Department of Extension Services it conducts
in-service courses of various types for teachers of
Secondary Schools in the neighborhood. This department
organizes from time to time seminars and conferences of
teachers, study circles, exhibitions of visual aids,
science fairs, film shows in schools and also runs a
library service for teachers, maintaining contact with the
neighboring schools on demand from them. It also promotes
intensive work for total school improvement in a few
Kala Bhavana (College
of Fine Arts & Crafts)
Education in the academic sense of mere acquisition of
knowledge or information never appealed to the comprehensive
genius of the poet. Education to be real must be of the
whole man, of the emotions and senses as much as of the
intellect. He said, ". . .in order to lay before our educa-
tional authorities the petition that they should try and
make it natural for our educated people to reverence art.
Anything else that it may be necessary for me to do I have
already started in my own institution, in spite of many
handicaps" (Tagore, 1947c; p. 45). Actually, from the very
beginning Santiniketan gave a large place to art, and now
Kala Bhavana has developed into a well-known Centre of
Indian Art. It maintains a museum, a library of books on
art and allied subjects and an exhibition hall. It provides
instruction for the following courses :
1. Five-year Degree Course in Fine Arts and Crafts
imparting integrated training in painting.
sculpture, graphic art, history of art and
crafts with specialization in any one of the
following — painting, sculpture, graphic art
and history of art. The qualification for the
entrance is a Higher School Certificate or an
2. Five-year diploma course in painting, sculpture,
graphic art and crafts.
3. Two-year certificate course in artistic
handicrafts in the following subjects:
embroidery, leather work, weaving, batik and
dyeing Alpana, Bandhani design, ornamental
Fresco, and design. Only women students
(not below 15 years of age) are eligible for
4. One-year post-diploma course for students who
have passed the diploma course in Fine Arts
and Crafts of this University or possess
equivalent qualification. A very small number
of students are admitted on the basis of their
high attainments in the subjects.
Sanqeet Bhavana (College
of Music and Dance)
Tagore always gave music and dancing a priority place
in his scheme of education. A large part of man, he
believed, cannot wholly be expressed by the mere language
of words. "Man has not only discovered scientific truths,
he has realized the ineffable. From ancient times the gifts
of such expressions have been rich and profuse.. Wherever
man has seen the manifestation of perfection, — in words,
music, lines, colours, and rhythm, in the sweetness of
human relationship, in heroism — there he has attested his
joy with the signature of immortal words. I hope and trust
that our students may not be deprived of these messages. . ."
(Tagore, 1947q p. 45). He, thus, regarded the language of
sounds and movements to be the highest means of self-
expression without which people remain inarticulate.
Sangeet Bhavana offers instruction in Rabindra Sangeet,
classical music (vocal), Manipuri dance, Kathakali dance,
si tar and esraj, and tabla. Students are allowed to take up
to two of the above subjects. There are part-time two-year
certificates, four-year senior certificate course, and four-
year diploma courses offered by the school. In the four-
year senior certificate course even a non-matriculate student
with aptitude can be considered for admission, whereas in
the four-year diploma course matriculation is essential.
Besides, the college does offer a four -year degree course in
music and dance in which matriculation with aptitude is
essential for admission. Subjects taught for this degree
1. General papers: English, Bengali/Hindi,
Aesthetics/Psycho logy/Rabindra literature.
2. Music papers: Rabindra Sangeet, classical
music (vocal) , Manipuri dance, Kathakali dance,
sitar and esraj (any two to be selected) .
Sangeet Bhavam also of f ers two-year research studies
leading to the Ph.D. degree in music.
Visva-Bharati also maintains two research departments:
(1) Cheena Bhavana and (2) Hindi Bhavana which organize
teaching and research in Chinese and Hindi respectively.
Hindi Bhavana brings out a quarterly research journal in
Hindi — Visva-Bharati Patrika — and also has a research publi-
cation series — the Halvasiya Granthamala. The Cheena-
Bhavana helps in conducting the B.A. (Honors) and post-
graduate courses in Chinese studies.
Lok Siksha Samsad
(People's Education Council)
The Lok Siksha-Samsad is an examining body formed with
a view of encouraging home study among those who cannot
afford to continue their study in schools or colleges. At
the education conference during the Bengal Education Week
celebrated in February 1936, Tagore made some proposals and
among other observations made therein, he stated, "if
examination centers are started in towns and cities of
different states for those men and women in the country who
are for various reasons deprived of the benefit of school
education, then many will feel encouraged to educate them-
selves at home in their leisure hours. Their education
can be properly directed if their syllabus and textbooks are
clearly prescribed from the lowest to the highest stages.
The degrees that will be awarded through these examinations
will be valuable insofar as they will bring social prestige
and will be useful for earning a livelihood. It can,
therefore, be hoped that all its expenses will easily be
met through the fees received from candidates all over the
country. On this occasion, the field for preparing text-
books will be extended, and the material for mass education
will increase. It will also provide the means of liveli-
hood to numerous authors" (Tagore, 1936, pp. 38-39). He
also added that this desire could not materialize at Visva-
Bharati for want of funds, but once the proposal was turned
down by the education ministry of Bengal, he placed it
before the authorities of Visva-Bharati who undertook to
organize mass education on the lines suggested by him.
Initially there were three examinations, "Adya, " "Madhy, "
and "Upadhi, " roughly corresponding to the Matriculation,
Intermediate and B.A. standards, respectively. Later,
some more examinations were added, corresponding to pre-
Matriculation standard. The syllabus included Bengali
language, Bengali literature. History, Geography, Arithmetic,
General Knowledge, Elementary Hindi, Hygiene and Science in
different combinations for different standards. Under
Tagore's direction and editorship, Visva-Bharati undertook
the publication of a series of books in Bengali known as
Lok-Siksha-Granthamala, on various subjects of scientific
and general interest, specially written in easy language for
the general public.
From this discussion of different divisions of Visva-
Bharati it can be said that in accordance with Tagore's
thought, Visva-Bharati is growing up in three concentric
circles. The innermost circle is the circle of India. With
the variety of programs offered in the institution he tried
to strengthen the cultural ties of different parts of
India. His curriculum included Manipuri dance from Assam
and Kathakali from Travancore; Rabindra Sangeet, modern
Bengali music; as well as traditional Indian music,- beside
Bengali, a variety of languages like Hindi, Oriya, Sanskrit,
Pali, The Art Museum displayed works of artists from all over
the country. The second circle is the circle of Asia.
The department of Chinese studies was established with this
in mind. This department arranged for the study of Chinese
and Tibetan civilization, offered courses on their languages
and provided research facilities too. The third circle
seems to be the world circle which along with Asia includes
the civilizations of the West, of Europe and America.
Studies of different European languages, scientific studies
in the schools, different visiting professors, guests
students from the Western world helped in attaining this
goal. The atmosphere at Visva-Bharati also contributed
to the institution's higher goal. Students from anywhere
in India or the world lived together, shared the same food
and thus indirectly learned about each otherte cultures.
Any description of Visva-Bharati is incomplete without
Sriniketan. Tagore believed that an important part of the'
work of a university should be to gather accurate knowledge
about village conditions and discover how to use that
knowledge to solve village problems. On February 6, 1922,
only a few weeks after the formal opening of Visva-Bharati,
the center at Surul was formally opened with the name of
Sriniketan. The word "Sri" contains the idea of prosperity
and thus the name Sriniketan reveals Rabindranath 's hope to
make this place a center of village prosperity and welfare.
Prabhat Kumar, biographer of Tagore, wrote about the opening
day of Sriniketan, "This day is memorable in the annals of
Visva-Bharati. The long cherished dream of TagOre about
rural reconstruction was, on that day, on its way to ful-
fillment through the initiative of an Englishman and the '
financial assistance of an American" (Mukhopadhyaya, 1353-
1363 B.S. 3_, p. 93) . In fact, the movement started under
very promising circumstances. "What more could be wanted,
when these three great personalities were brought together
in the cause of humanity — Tagore with his visions and
dreams penetrating into the very souls of the peasantry
around him; Elmhirst with his leadership, sympathy and love
for the poor villagers of this part of Bengal; and Mrs.
Straight with her gift of money, without which neither of
the other two could proceed with any work of this kind"
(Lai, 1932, Ch. 3). The program started with two objectives
in mind, first to survey the economic, social and scientific
needs of the cultivators in their home, village and fields,
and second, to try out laboratory experiments in health,
education, craft, cultivation and animal husbandry (Elmhirst,
1957, p. 9) . Accordingly, the activities of Sriniketan
were organized under four departments: (1) Agriculture,
including Animal Husbandry, (2) Industries, (3) Village
Welfare, and (4) Education, and the unified program was
given the name of Institute of Rural Reconstruction~"Palli
Samgathan Vibhaga." The ideal of the institute, in the
words of Tagore, is "The object of Sriniketan is to bring
back life in its completeness into the villages making them
self-reliant and self-respectful, acquainted with the cul-
tural tradition of their own country and competent to make
an efficient use of the modern resources for the improvement
of their physical, intellectual and economic condition"
(Sriniketan, 1928, p. 1). Like different divisions of Visva-
Bharati, the Institute of Rural Reconstruction has also
expanded and its activities have been grouped under different
departments and different names, though still maintaining
the original objectives. Viewing the activities of the
institute at the time it started will convey Tagore 's com-
prehensive approach to village education.
Village welfare was one of the major objectives behind
Sriniketan and through its Village Reconstruction Department
Tagore tried to generate in villagers the spirit of self-
help so that they themselves could undertake the work of
improving their own villages through mutual aid and common
endeavor (Sriniketan, 1928, p. 5). To gain this object a
multidimensional program was followed under different units
of Economic, Educational, Health and Relief Work.
(1) Economic activities. Tagore always stressed the
importance of rural surveys before undertaking any serious
constructive program. Under this unit research was con-
ducted on land and its problems. The economics of paddy
cultivation, the economic condition of the various classes
of tenants and many other subjects related to the economy
were studied. In addition, Tagore wrote, "In our country,
in every village, let the cooperative principle prevail in
producing and distributing wealth — this is my desire"
(Tagore, 1970, pp. 116-117). Accordingly, cooperative
organization such as Rural Banks, Health Insurance and
Irrigation Societies, Paddy Stores, Weavers Associations
were established very early in the history of the Institute.
(2) Educational activities. This department
initially provided the elementary education for boys and
girls of the villages by establishing night and day schools.
The syllabus included the three R's, some useful crafts and
some useful recreational activities. In the girls' school
an emphasis was placed on house-craft and gardening. Besides
the children's school the department also provided oppor-
tunities for adult education through circulating libraries,
lantern lectures and conferences, recitations from Epics
and scriptures . .
One of the major organizations of the department
was Brati Balaka Organization — Boy Scouts. Miss Sykes
noted, "The Brati Balaks are an excellent example of the way
in which Rabindranath used good ideas from all over the
world in the building up of his Indian centre of education
and service. The Brati Balak troops owe a great debt to
the genius of Robert Baden-Powell, the founder of the
English Boy Scouts, and his insight into the needs of the
boys. Rabindranath studied his methods, saw where their
value lay, and adapted them to the needs of the Indian
village boy" (Sykes, 1943, p. 98). A training camp is held
each year for the training of the village boys as leaders
of Brati Balkas in their own villages. The general aim of
these camps is to introduce a boy to a wider conception of
the art of living, which is taken to include the Art of
Livelihood with its house-craft and handicraft, the art of
thinking and coordination of experience, and the art of
expression through games, songs, and the drama (Sriniketan,
1928, p.: 6). The Brati Balakas also help in the organization
of anti-malaria and village sanitation campaigns.
Another important activity of the department was
training camps for social service workers. The prescribed
syllabus included camp-life and house-craft. Elementary
Agriculture and Handicrafts, scouting, cooperation, sani-
tation, hygiene and first aid, and also recreational
activities like games, drama, singing and story-telling.
(3.) Health related activities. The workers of the
Village Welfare Department of the Institutes developed a
program to improve the health of neighboring rural popula-
tion. The program included an outdoor dispensary, supplying
expert advice and help from doctors and nurses, prevention
of diseases by inoculation, anti-malaria measures, and
training of village midwives .
Village reconstruction department also organized
activities around relief work against famines and epidemics.
Besides the educational activities of the Village
Welfare Department, Sriniketan maintains a high school,
Siksha-Satra, mainly for rural children. It seems Tagore
was not completely satisfied with the programs and activi-
ties at Santiniketan and made it clear that, "This was
not sufficient, and I waited for men and the means to be
able to introduce into our school an active vigor of work,
the joyous exercise of our inventive and constructive
energies that help to build up character and by their
constant movements naturally sweep away all accumulations
of dirt, decay and death. In other words, I always felt
the need of the Western genius for imparting to my educa-
tional ideal that strength of reality which knows how to
clear the path towards a definite end of practical good
... .Fortunately help came to us from an English friend
who took the leading part in creating and guiding the rural
organization work connected with the Visva-Bharati " (Tagore,
1946, pp. 9-10). Thus, with the cooperation of Elmhirst,
Siksha-Satra was started in July 1924, about two and a half
years after the establishment of the institute. About its
origin, Elmhirst said, "Siksha-Satra is the natural outcome
of some years of educational experiment at Santiniketan and
at the Institute of Rural Reconstruction at Sriniketan.
Principles upon which it is based are little more than
common sense, deductions from the failures and successes of
the past" (Elmhirst, 1946, p. 17) .
The school is organized as a miniature community and
students do everything that a village householder is
expected to do, on a small scale but with greater effi-
ciency and understanding. The literary education is not
ignored but more attention is given to the building up of
the whole man. The extra-curricular activities of the
Siksha-Satra include: (1) Industry (weaving, carpentry,
book-binding and leather works), (2) Gardening, (3)
Health and sanitation, (4) Housecraft and general manage-
ment, (5) Sports, games and Brati-Balaka activities, (6)
Educational trips to places of interest, (7) Literary
society, (8) A monthly manuscript magazine — Chesta (Effort) .
A child can enter the school as soon as he is six years old
and not later than twelve years. He enters the Siksha-
Satra as an apprentice in handicrafts as well as housecraft
and then slowly along with his experiments in crafts,
gardening, etc., a child is given elementary academic
training. Always a close relationship between the two is
established in programs of Siksha-Satra. Here an attempt
is being made to give an all round education to village
children and provide them with training which will not only
enable them to earn a decent livelihood but also to equip
them with the necessary training and creative imagination
with which they may help to improve the rural life of Bengal
in all aspects (Siksha-Satra, 1936, p. 1) .
Educational activities at Sriniketan also included
a training school for teachers of village primary school
which is known as Siksha-Charcha. It provides instruction
in both theory and practice for teachers. Practical
training in one village craft is considered essential. At
present the instruction is provided for one year and it
leads to a certificate.
After Tagore's death a new department was added in
Sriniketan, Palli SikshaSadana, College of Agriculture.
It is designed primarily to equip rural youth with the
knowledge of modern methods of farming. Besides, in-
struction in the basic sciences like Chemistry, Physics,
Mathematics, Botany and Zoology, it also provides specialized
courses in Agronomy, Goat Keeping, Agricultural Economics,
Agricultural Chemistry, Horticulture, Entomology, Agri-
cultural Engineering, Plant Pathology, Genetics, Plant
Breeding and Farm Management. Practical training in
agriculture and dairy farms and field work are integral
elements of the course.
The complete program at Sriniketan is an effort to
uplift the rural community and an integral program like
this can bring dynamic change in Indian Society. For
his efforts Tagore said, "I cannot take responsibility
for the whole of India. I wish to win only one or two
small villages. We have to enter into their minds to
acquire strength to work in collaboration with them. That
is not easy, it is very difficult and will require austere
self-discipline. If I can free only one or two villages
from the bonds of ignorance and weakness, there will be
built, on a tiny scale, an ideal for the whole of India.
This is what came to me then and what I still behold"
(Tagore et al., 1958, p. 7). He believed that our aim must
be to give these few villages complete freedom — education
for all, the winds of joy blowing across the village, music
and recitations going on, as in the old days. Fulfill
this ideal in a few villages and only if that is done, will
India be truly ours (Tagore et al., 1958, p. 7). His
institutions, their activities and curriculum thrived for
Organization of Daily Activities
The daily routine of Tagore 's school is quite in-
teresting and it is there one sees his educational ideas
and ideals at work. The students are awakened into the
beauty and calm of early dawn by a band of singers who go
around the school singing the poet's songs. As soon as the
students get up, they clean their rooms and make up their
beds. Fran the beginning the children are taught not to
despise manual work and a spirit of self-reliance is
cultivated in them (Cornelius, 1930, p. 132).
Then out in the open air they have their physical
exercise followed by their morning bath. After the bath
fifteen minutes are set apart for meditation. Students
carry their mats and take their places under some se-
cluded tree for the purpose of contemplation. Tagore was
a great believer in meditation, but he knew that all
students will not meditate and get its complete joy. Yet
he considered meditation as having self-disciplinary value.
"I insist on this period of meditation, not, however, ex-
pecting the boys to be hypocrites and to make believe they
are meditating. But I do insist that they remain quiet,
that they exert the power of self-control, even though
instead of contemplating on God, they may be watching the
squirrels running up the tree^' (Tagore, 19l7q p. 176) .
To the sound of a musical song all the students rise
from under the trees where they had been meditating, and
move reverently to the school temple, where there is no
image and no altar. All the students gather together in
this temple and after an opening prayer in Bengali, they
chant in unison the Sanskrit verses. Here regular worship
was conducted twice a week by the poet when present, by
the teachers of the institution, in his absence.
After breakfast the classes begin at about 5:30.
Open door life of the ashram has helped to do away with
elaborate furniture and classroom equipment. Even the
students are taught to be simple in habits. Immediately
after breakfast students carry their mats, spread them
under the trees or on the verandahs of the buildings and
begin their lessons in different subjects. Only when they
study physics and chemistry do they go to the physical or
chemical laboratories. The classes are not definitely
fixed; students are allowed to attend classes, higher or
lower, according to their achievements. Students as well
as teachers are provided freedom for trying different ways
The morning school session ends at 10:30 and since
the afternoons are quite hot in India, most of the subjects
which call for hard mental work are got through in the
morning hours. Then it is time for the mid-day meal.
Serving at the meals is undertaken by students in turn.
Thus it teaches them the dignity of labor and also lightens
the burden of kitchen service. Boys and girls in
Santiniketan are thus trained in every possible way to be
useful and active citizens. By an ingenious arrangement
the elder girls take charge of the little children of the
junior school and thereby learn a great deal that is
useful in mothering and housekeeping. After lunch students
spend their time as they like; some rest and some prepare
their lessons with the help of tutors. Classes begin
again at 2:00 and continue until 4:30 in the afternoon.
i In the early evenings before dinner, the boys rush
to the playgrounds to play football, cricket and other
games. There are outdoor games organized for girls also.
Often students go on long walking excursions with their
teachers, spending the whole day in the open air, singing
and playing games. Instead of joining the games some of
the older and stronger boys go to the neighboring villages
to carry on a well organized program of social service. In
his famous Gitanjali, Tagore wrote:
Come out of this meditation and leave aside
thy flowers and incense. What harm is there
if thy clothes become tattered and stained?
Meet Him and stand by Him in toil and in
sweat of thy brow. (Tagore, 1914, No. 11)
Inspired by the poet's life and teaching, many of these
boys deprived themselves of the pleasure of enjoying the
evening games and went among the Santhal tribes and other
poor people in the neighboring villages, who lived in
pitiable unsanitary conditions and in appalling ignorance
and superstition. They held evening schools for them,
organized their sports and amusements, taught them
handicrafts and helped them in many other ways in their
After games, students would have their baths and
then their evening meditation for 15 minutes followed by
the chanting of Sanskrit verse in the temple. Immediately
after this short temple service, it was time for dinner.
The work of the day, begun with prayer, is thus brought to
its close again with prayer. The whole life of the school
is permeated by a spiritual atmosphere. This is all the
more striking since Tagore did not believe in teaching
religion. He expressed, "Teaching of religion can never be
imparted in the form of lessons, it is there where there
is religion in living. . . .Religion is not a fractional
thing that can be doled out in fixed weekly or daily
measures as one among various subjects in the school
syllabus" (Tagore, 1917c, pp. 163-165) . Hence no dogmatic
teaching is given in Santiniketan. The religious atmos-
phere of the place helps the pupils to learn to respect
religions other than their own by living in close contact
with boys and teachers of other faiths .
When the evening meal is over, the scholars have an
hour of entertainment such as story-telling, singing, a
lantern lecture, a circus perfoimance or enacting a play
composed by the boys themselves, to which the masters are
invited. This pleasant time, however, is not shared by
the older boys who need extra hours of work. For all the
rest of the boys and girls, evening study is forbidden. Why
Tagore planned it this way he answered, "Books tell us that
the discovery of fire was one of the biggest discoveries
of man. I do not wish to dispute this. But I cannot help
feeling how fortunate the little birds are that their
parents cannot light lamps of an evening. They have their
language lessons early in the morning and you must have
noticed how gleefully they learn them" (Tagore, 1917b,
pp. 39-40) .
The bell for retiring sounds at about nine o'clock
and a choir again goes around the school singing. Thus the
day which began with a song ends in a fitting manner with a
song. This schedule at Santiniketan was drastically
different than what Tagore had experienced in his child-
hood and that was one of the reasons he tried to create an
atmosphere in his school, where freedom flourished,
creativity got a special recognition and students as well
as teachers together participated in the process of
Organization of Curriculum
Alexander and Saylor stated, "Curriculum encompasses
all learning opportunities provided by the school" (Saylor
J. Glen & Alexander, W., 1966, p. 5), and it seems Tagore's
approach to curriculum fits this definition aptly.
Education according to him aimed at the development of
complete manhood for the attainment of a full life and the
curriculum envisaged in his educational thought also partook
of that idea of fullness and referred to all aspects of
human life. He advocated a fullness of experience for
children so that they might acquire knowledge from multiple
sources, even through the sub-conscious process and tried
to provide opportunity for this in his school. He ob-
served that though a human being is only three cubits and
a half in height, none can live and grow happily within a
space only just as high. An ample space is necessary for
free and healthy development and this is as true in the
intellectual sense as in the physical (Tagore, 1351 B.S.,
p. 7) . Such ample space can be provided only through a
full and wide curriculum that would ensure a fullness of
experience to the growing children. "It was my desire,"
Tagore pointed out, "that I would establish in the
Santiniketan Asram, a field for the pursuit of culture on
a wide scale. We shall admit as part of this culture, not
merely the cultivation of knowledge within the narrow
limits determined by the textbooks prescribed in our schools
but also all kinds of arts and crafts, dance, music and
play, as well as knowledge and skill necessary for render-
ing service to the villages" (Tagore, 1370 B.S., pp. 148-
In fact, after a description of Santiniketan 's
program and activities, it seems justifiable to call this
curriculum an open school curriculum. According to
Anderson, "The greatest opportunity for learning in the
Open System. . .is found in infancy and the pre-school
years when there are few environmental demands no curricu-
lum and little systematic teaching. It is at this period
of no curriculum and little pressure that the greatest and
most rapid learning takes place and that creativity is most
universally manifest. The Open System permits originality,
experimentation, initiative and invention; it constitutes
the propitious environment for creativity" (Anderson,
1961). Santiniketan provides opportunity for exploring the
world by the student himself, encourages him to be more
creative than just memorizing the facts. Actually Tagore
interpreted the curriculum not in terms of certain subjects
to be learned but in terms of certain activities to be
undertaken. That is one of the reasons that in Santiniketan
besides the regular academic subjects, emphasis was placed
on drama, excursions, gardening, regional study, and original
compositions. In addition, so called extra-curricular
activities like games, social services, and student self-
government formed a regular feature of the normal working
of the institution in order to bring into play all the
essential faculties of the children.
Tagore was not a believer in the sanctity of a static
curriculum and it is impossible to find a well organized
curriculum plan for his school. For him, ideals per-
meating the life and activities of an institution are more
important than the subjects taught and activities pursued
therein. "What subjects we are teaching to our students
here, " he pointed out, "whether the teaching has been
agreeable to all or whether the department of higher
studies has been started and research work conducted after
the pattern of an ordinary college — let these not consti-
tute our permanent sighs of glory. They exist today and
may, not exist tomorrow. I am afraid lest what is small
should suppress the great, lest wild plants should cover
the corn field" (Tagore, 137GB.S., p. 107). It seems
that Tagore really had no fixed curriculum in mind. His
emphasis on ideals of life and his aim — his institution's
aim — -to achieve them made the curriculum of the school
a unique curriculum. He believed in the flexible and
dynamic character of curriculum and relied on the ideals
that inspired its adoption. Hirendranath Datta wrote,
"It was to be borne in mind that there was nothing extra-
curricular in Gurudeva's scheme of education. He had no
curriculum of studies as such. He had, instead, a
curriculum of life. The emphasis all the time was on
learning to live rather than on living to learn" (Datta,
1957, p. 38). Devoid of proper background, the subject of
study in itself had little significance or effectiveness.
Similarly, though Tagore was opposed to mere bookish
knowledge in his school but he always encouraged free and
independent reading in a copious manner. He had expressed
his regrets since the days of his earliest writings in
education that there were few good books for young children
in Indian languages, and whatever few existed could not be
read because the children were over-burdened with a
narrowly utilitarian curriculum (Tagore, 1351 B.S., p. 10).
Keeping this in mind, he and his colleagues wrote many
children's books which were published by Visva-Bharati in
series of Lok-Siksha Granthamala and Visva-Vidya-Sangraha.
Even the library in the institution gave an important
place to children's literature and children enjoyed it too.
While criticizing the prevailing curriculum in the
schools of India, Tagore mentioned its unrealistic nature,
non-congruency, too many books and very little or no
creativity, no imaginations. In his school, he tried to
get rid of these problems. His curriculum offered a wide
variety of subjects and activities from which students could
select what they wanted. He tried to cultivate both thinking
and imaginative abilities of students. "There is no doubt that
the faculty of thinking and the faculty of imagination are
the two most essential faculties for the purpose of living.
. . .It is, therefore, a truism that if thinking and
imagination are not cultivated from childhood, they will
not be available for use in the future" (Tagore, 1351 B.S.,
p. 11). Tagore ' s concept of realistic curriculum attained
its fullest expression in the Siksha-Satra experiment at
Sriniketan. Assisted by Elmhirst, a disciple of Dewey,
he introduced there an integrated and co-related pattern
of activity which is very similar to the Project Curricu-
lum developed by Kilpatrick (Kilpatrick, 1952).
Tagore had a liberal mind and in the whole of his life's
philosophy and therefore in his educational thought, there
is no room for any narrowness, any partial, restricted
or one-sided views. It is reflected in his elucidation of
the contents of the curriculum. Its variety and richness
stand out in striking contrast to the narrowness of
the prevalent concepts and practices. The hard-headed
realist who sought the quick way out of the educational
stages by concentrating on the essential and marketable
branches of knowledge, was doing justice neither to the
child's nature nor to the manifold needs of society. Tagore
not only gave a new orientation to academic work but also
pleaded for the education of man's emotions, for giving
music, painting and other fine arts and crafts their due
place as a means of self-expression and fulfillment. Side
by side with his insistence on the cultivation of emotions,
he showed a full awareness of the role of intellect and
reason and was appreciative of the contribution of Western
science. History, as a study of man's cultural legacy,
was for Tagore another significant part of the curriculum.
He believed in one history, history of man, and taught
that to his students. He was anxious to find room for as
many languages as possible so as to throw open the doors
to many cultures of the world. He was convinced that, if
a well-balanced and stimulating environment is planned in
school— natural as well as social — half the battle of
training character and personality will be won. His success
lay in the fact that he did not try to control directly the
ideas, feelings and values of his children but imaginatively
designed an environment and a program of activities and
experience which evoked the desired responses. "I tried
my best, " he explains, "to develop in the children of my
school the freshness of their feeling for nature, a
sensitiveness of soul in their relationship with their
human surroundings with the help of literature, festive
ceremonials and also the religious teaching which enjoins
us to come to the nearer presence of the world through the
soul, thus to gain it more than can be measured" (Tagore,
1946, p. 9) .
The history and growth of Visva-Bharati reveals that
the historic process of the modern world, tending to a
unification of the globe and mankind found place and
partial fulfillment in the institution. The school started
as a true center of Indian culture and afterwards extended
the scope to include Asia and the whole world. At present
though the atmosphere in the school is still the same with
the free and healthy life in nature, simple coininunity life,
the close association and intimate relationship between
teachers and pupils, the rich atmosphere of constructive
and creative activities exercising and encouraging the
spontaneous self-expression of the pupils in various direc-
tions, but due to the extended curriculum towards degrees
there has been a loss of original spontaneous studies.
Visva-Bharati entered an entirely new chapter in its
career when it was converted into a statutory university
under the central government of free India in May, 1951.
Since the reorientation of the institution, many of its
departments have been reorganized partly for administrative
reasons and partly for bringing them in line with other
regular universities in the country. The new status has
also helped the institution financially. The tremendous
financial strain of running an expensive institution like
Visva-Bharati was borne mainly by Rabindranath, and in
parts by generous donations of cash and services, but after
his death the institution had struggled for its existence
on its own resources and ultimately the governing body of
the institution decided to hand it over to the government.
During the conversion of the institution into its new
status, and a number of times thereafter, several Indian
leaders sounded a note of warning that Visva-Bharati in
its new role, should not become another average Indian
university but should retain its distinctive features which
had given it a special place in the educational setup of
the country. The preceding discussion indicates that though
changes have occurred to make Visva-Bharati a more practical
university, Tagore's ideals regarding education still per-
meate the environment.
■•■On Dec. 24, 1924, Tagore was talking to Madame
Victoria Ocampo and during his talk he mentioned, "board-
ing schools are still very rare in India. Parents retain
their faith in the well established day schools around
them. I didn't blame them for not trusting a poet to take
over the full care of their children, and as a result I
got some of the worst type of boys." The conversation
is available by the title Schooling in the magazine
The Visva-Bharati Quarterly . 1963-64, 29^(4) 273-279 pp.
^During Nov. 1920 - Jan. 1921, Tagore was in New York
where he met Leonard K. Elmhirst, an Englishman of
realistic disposition and a graduate of Cambridge Univer-
sity, who took agricultural training in America. Elmhirst
was deeply impressed by Tagore 's passion for village uplift
work, and sometime later wrote to him from England that he
wanted to assist him in his rural reconstruction project.
He also informed Tagore that Mrs. Straight, a rich American
widow (who later became his wife), ted promised an annual
recurring grant of about Rs. 50,000 towards the project.
DISCUSSION AND CONCLUSION
Discussion in the previous chapters, concerning
Tagore's educational philosophy, its practical application
at a time when education in India was restless, lifeless,
and in most cases meaningless, does bring out one signifi-
cant point. That is, among Indian educators of the first
half of the twentieth century Tagore was one of the most
outstanding figures. He waged a ceaseless battle to uphold
the highest educational ideals before the country and con-
ducted educational experiments at his own institutions which
made them the living symbols of what an ideal and full
education should be, not only in the Indian but also in the
world context. He surcharged his ideas with such lustre
of his mighty personality that many of them have become an
integral part of the aims and achievements of Indian
education at the present day, even though his name may not
always be directly remembered in this context.
Impact on Indian Education
Basic Education and Tagore
To find out about its impact on Indian education, it
is essential to compare Tagore 's experiment in education
with some other similar experiments in India. One of the
major forces in Indian education, which started during
Tagore 's period, was that of Basic Education, initiated by
M. K. Gandhi. In 1937, for the first time, Gandhi's ideas
regarding Basic Education were published in an article in
the magazine Harijan . His theory of Basic Education was
later adopted as the national policy of elementary education
in India. The educational philosophies of both Gandhi and
Tagore originated as a reaction to the book-centered, too
theoretical clerk- producing British education. The
educational systems they envisaged were thoroughly imbued
with their respective life philosophies. The unhappy
memories of Tagore 's early education caused him to start
the Brahma vidyalaya with a handful of boys and practically
no teachers. Gandhi's educational program started as a
part of a political program. He realized that village
reconstruction had to be the center of nation building.
Education, as he conceived it, is no less a struggle for
freedom — freedom from ignorance, inefficiency, insecurity.
oppression, exploitation, injustice. His plan to impart
primary education through the medium of village handicrafts
like spinning and carding is conceived as the spearhead
of a silent social revolution fraught with the most far-
reaching consequences. It would check the progressive
decay of 700,000 villages of India and lay the foundation
for a more just social order in which there would be no
unnatural division between the haves and have-nots (Gandhi,
1951, pp. 63-64i.
The essence of Gandhi's educational theory puts a
greater emphasis on the education of the three H's; these
are: culture of the Heart, culture of the Head, and culture
of the Hands. To him character formation is one of the
foremost aims of education. "I had always given the first
place to the culture of the Heart or the building of
character, and as I felt confident that moral training
could be given to all alike, no matter how different their
ages and their upbringing" (Gandhi, 1929, p. 408). He be-
lieved that education is not an aim in itself, rather, an
instrument, and only that type of education can be called
real education which helps in the building of sound
character and morality (Gandhi, 1962, p. 3) .
Gandhi also attached great importance to knowledge.
culture of the head, in his educational plan. He strongly
opposed the idea that intelligence can be developed only
through bookish knowledge. Real education has to draw out
the best from the boys and girls to be educated. This can
never be done by packing ill-assorted and unwanted informa-
tion into the heads of the pupils. It becomes a dead
weight crushing all originality in them and turning them
into mere automata (Gandhi, 1953, p. 50) .
Gandhi's scheme of Basic Education is a process of
learning through activity. The two basic principles
around which the Basic Education scheme has been centered
are that, (1) education should be woven around a suitable
craft, and (2) education should be self-supporting. The
principle of intellectual training in and through a craft
is the most fundamental feature of the scheme. For, it is
a craft which is capable of being manipulated by the child,
that sets problems to him and calls out in relation to
them, his thought, character and artistic sense (Gandhi,
1951, p. vi) .
In Basic Education, every handcraft has to be taught
not merely mechanically, but scientifically, i.e., the
child should know the why and wherefore of every process
(Gandhi, 1953, p. 53). The idea is that handicrafts are
to be taught not merely for productive work, but for
developing the intellect of the pupils (Gandhi, 1956,
p. 13). The second major principle of Basic Education
is that the craft chosen should be so taught that besides
developing all-round personality of the child, it can make
education self-supporting. The self-supporting aspect of
education may be considered in two senses: (1) education
that will help one to be self-supporting in later life,
and (2) education which in itself is self-supporting
(Gandhi, 1951, p. 58) . Gandhi was also a firm believer
in the principle of free and compulsory education for seven
years (from ages seven to fourteen) for all citizens, male
and female. He said, "If we expect, as we must, every
boy and girl of school-going age to attend public schools,
we have not the means to finance education in accordance
with the existing style, nor are millions of parents able
to pay the fees that are at present imposed. Education
to be universal must therefore be free. . . .It follows,
therefore, that our children must be made to pay in labour
partly or wholly for all the education they receive. Such
universal labcur to be profitable can only be (to my
thinking) hand spinning and hand weaving" (Gandhi, 1953,
Besides, he made several other important suggestions
in his educational theory. All education must be imparted
through the medium of the mother tongue. In education
there should be no room for giving sectarian religious
training. Fundamental, universal ethics will have full
scope. Also, since millions of students receiving this
education will consider themselves as citizens of the whole
of India, they must learn an inter-provincial language.
This common inter-provincial speech can only be Hindustani
written in Nagari or Urdu script (Gandhi, 1951, p. 65) .
The development of the sense of freedom, initiative and
responsibility should be achieved through the self-
government and self-help of children inside the school
Thus, it is clear that in the urgency of village re-
construction programs both Tagore and Gandhi agree. Tagore
was very happy when he found out about Gandhi's involvement
with rural regeneration programs. In a letter to Amiya
Chakavarty he pointed out, "Mahatmaji has undertaken this
work after all these years. He is a colossal figure and
his strides are very long. . . .With my meagre resources,
I have not been able to achieve much. . .and reform of
education and revival of the village — these are the chief
missions of my life" (Tagore, Pravasi, Jyaistha, 1342 B.S.).
In a way, Gandhi undertook the plan which Tagore had in
mind but it started as an independent program, and due to
their different philosophies, Basic Education has a
different approach for village reconstruction from Tagore 's
program. Tagore frankly expressed his doubt and disagree-
ment regarding certain fundamental principles behind the
scheme as, at any rate, it appeared on paper. He said,
"As the scheme stands on paper, it seems to assume that
material utility rather than the development of personality
is the end of education; that while education in the true
sense of the word, may be still available for a chosen
few who can afford to pay for it, the utmost that the masses
can have is to be trained to view the world they live (in)
in the perspective of the particular craft they are to
employ for their livelihood. It is true that, as things
are, even that is much more than what masses are actually
getting, but it is nevertheless unfortunate that even in our
ideal scheme, education should be doled out in insufficient
relations to the poor, while the feast remains reserved
for the rich. I cannot congratulate a society or a nation
that calmly excludes play from the curriculum of the
majority of its children's education and gives in its
stead a vested interest to the teachers in the market
value of the pupil's labour" (Tagore, 1938) . Tagore hoped,
however, that Mahatmaji's incomparable love for children
of the poor as well as his remarkable practical genius
would ultimately set right whatever drawbacks the scheme
seemed to have at that stage.
It is interesting to know that Shri E. W. Aryanayakam
and Asha Devi, the two persons who have been in close
touch with Basic Education from its very inception as
formulated by Gandhi, and who have been throughout at the
helm of this work since then, have both worked for long
years at a stretch at Santiniketan and at Sriniketan in the
responsible office of directors. Thus both of them came
into close contact with Tagore 's method of work and his
basic principles of education. At the invitation of
Sri Jamanalal Bazaz, a devoted and well-to-do disciple
of Gandhi, they left Santiniketan and went to Wardha as
directors of the Naba Bharat Institution founded by him.
They were entrusted with the responsibility of developing
this institution into a work-centric school. This phenome-
non does emphasize that indirectly Gandhi's Basic Educa-
tional activities were influenced by Tagore's work pattern.
Gandhi was a national, political figure and his thinking
and ideas had wide impact. His Basic Education philosophy
was part of the national movement and in time it got
recognition as the national policy of elementary education.
In a national seminar on Gandhian Values in Education
which was held on the 9th to 11th of February at Sevagram,
Wardha, Professor V. K. R. V. Rao made some major recom-
mendations for improving Basic Education pattern in the
schools. A close study of his recommended program will
indicate that most of these activities were already under-
taken by Tagore in his institutions.
This program should cover all stages of
education and many, for instance, include:
(a) Safai, and maintenance of the campus;
(b) participation in sowing and harvesting
operations through suitable adjustment of
vocations; (c) participation in productive
work in agricultural operations in the
school, family farm or the neighbourhood
(d) teaching of crafts; (e) cultivation of
hobbies; (f) adoption of new methods of
teaching which provide opportunities for
work with hands to the maximum extent possi-
ble in every subject; (g) establishing
close contacts between the educational in-
stitutions and the community through pro-
grammes of mutual service and support;
(h) participation in programmes of relief
in times of famine, flood, epidemics and
other natural calamities; (i) beginning the
school day by an assembly with a silent
and/or common prayer and provision for teach-
ing of moral and social values; (j) organi-
zing suitable programmes of adult education,
including the spread of literacy, and (k)
involvement of students in programmes which
will train them in responsibility.
(National Seminar, 1970)
Tagore's Brati-Bulak Organization (Boy Scouts),
Lantern Lecture, night schools, fulfilled such requirements
in his school. Actually, Tagore ' s scheme is free from the
criticism levelled against the productive and self-support-
ing principles of Basic Education. Furthermore, his emphasis
on play, art, music, and the free creative activities of
children rather than the compulsory productive aspect,
is reflected in the recommendation program. It is clear
that Tagore's impact on Indian education has been much more
than has been acknowledged or that he has been given credit
for. It seems, to some extent, that a lack of research on
Tagore is responsible for this situation. In the absence of
it, even recommendation committees are hesitant to acknowledge
Tagore's impact. Unless they find strong evidence, i.e.,
Gandhi or his co-workers mentioning that at some stage
a program was influenced by Tagore's pattern, they don't
want to commit themselves on the subject. Also, Tagore's
experiment survived through years (before 1951) without any
kind of state or national support. It was basically one
man's educational philosophy against the rulers' educational
plan and still in such unfavorable circumstances the school
not only survived but also flourished. Again it seems
writers in the field of education in India are still not
convinced as to how much significant impact this kind of
isolated effort can have on national policies. Actually
a thorough research on this aspect can be the subject of a
As in the case of any new program, Tagore's educa-
tional works have also been subjected to criticism from
different points of view. One of the most important among
them was voiced by Professor Jadunath Sarkar, the eminent
Indian historian, touching some fundamental aspects of
educational ideals and activities of Visva-Bharati. The
correspondence between him and Tagore, which took place in
May- June, 1922, was published long afterwards in the maga-
zine Pravasi, in Chaitra, 1352 B.S. (1945) issue. According
to the correspondence Professor Sarkar alleged that while
the elementary and research stages at Visva-Bharati were
well provided for, the intermediate undergraduate stage
was very deficient. The undergraduate students there
lacked the general academic background, exact knowledge
and intellectual discipline, which were necessary for
higher studies and research later on. This is true be-
cause, according to him, the hyper-aesthetic and emotional
atmosphere of the institution, specially under the power-
ful influence of the poetic personality of Tagore himself,
was inherently "hostile to the scientific method and exact
knowledge." In his reply, Tagore forcefully contradicted
the allegations and asked Professor Sarkar whether he had
any positive evidence in support of his contention. Actually,
Tagore 's own long-standing personal admiration for scientific
and disciplined pursuit of truth, his persistent advocacy
of the cultivation of scientific knowledge within the
institution, the establishment of an agricultural and an
industrial department at Sriniketan for practical research
and production contradict Mr. Sarkar 's allegations, at
least in Tagore 's theory. As to Professor Sarkar 's charge
that the atmosphere of Santiniketan overstressed the
aesthetic and emotional aspects of life, Tagore asserted
that he valued beauty and the emotions as much as the
scientific outlook, because he regarded the former as much
necessary for and conducive to the full mutual development
of the pupils as the latter. Regarding the charge of the
unwholesome influence on the pupils of the poet's per-
sonality, which was essentially emotional and fanciful.
Professor Sarkar did not have much basis. It is true, that
in India, most poets are considered so but Tagore ' s
personal life did not offer the example of vapid emotion-
alism but presented a record of hard thinking, strenuous
endeavor, concrete service and selfless sacrifice.
There have been several other criticisms also of
Tagore's educational work but they are not pronounced by
one or more specific persons. They are more like general com-
ments, rather than strong criticisms based on logical
grounds. These have been skepticisms regarding the con-
cepts of Asram ideal, and stress on spiritual values.
It has been also criticized for the effeminate and im-
practical nature of training. It is alleged that the hyper-
aesthetic atmosphere of the institution and the hyper-
aesthetic quality of culture which exist there serve to
produce romantic aesthetes, who may be good in the fine arts,
but they are entirely unfit for the hard struggle for
existence in the modern world. Again, all these allega-
tions are also based on mere assumption rather than on
any research findings.
It is surprising that while so many people have talked
about Tagore's educational work and some have indirectly
criticized the plan on the basis of assumptions, yet nobody
has stopped to think why this program did not appeal to
public or to national educational programmer. From the
foregoing discussion, the program seems to be based on a
sound all-rounded educational philosophy and yet it did
not attract many people. Even now in India many people
associate Visva-Bharati mainly as an institute of art and
music education. To some extent Tagore societies, which
are scattered all over India and throughout the world, with
their performances of Rabindra-plays and music also help
in creating that partial picture. It is time that re-
searchers start working on this problem of non-popularity of
Tagore 's educational system. Regret about this situation
has been expressed by some people like Lt. Col. Yeats-
Brown who noticed that "behind Santiniketan there is not
yet the driving force of a great popular movement, but
only a great man" (Yeats-Brown, 1936). One reason for this
seems to be that Tagore ' s scheme lacked the political
sanction which Gandhi's Wardha Scheme possessed (Chatterjee,
1348 B.S.). It seems to the present researcher that the
residential nature of the school might have been a dis-
couraging factor for parents of young children. Once the
school was established and well-reputed, it was no more an
exile for problem children and its residential nature
probably discouraged parents. Also due to this the school
seems to be more expensive than an ordinary parent of
India can afford. Since Bengali is the medium of instruc-
tion all festivities, atmosphere around the school is
enlightened with the culture of Bengal. In this respect the
school has too many local qualities to be appreciated by
a parent from distant parts of India with a different
language. Bengali, as a medium of instruction, which was
once a major strength of the institution, seems to be a
limiting factor now. Any revolution to get strength in
India has to be based on a more commonly spoken language,
like Hindi. At this stage, it seems essential that in
different parts of the country many centers should be
opened on the same principles but representing the culture
of that particular region. This kind of program can
strengthen the nature of Visva-Bharati and its ideals will
be accessible to more people.
Suggestions for Further Research
An immense amount of Tagore's educational writings
and his pioneer work in education deserves more attention
than what has been really paid to it. It can provide the
basis for many research which will be able to explore
more on Tagore's educational work and which can provide
new guidelines for a significant educational plan for the
country. Due to the lack of critical approach in Indian
culture for a respectable personality, like Tagore, most
of the writings available now are descriptive and full of
admiration and respect for Tagore 's program. Some good
extensive research on Tagore will help in understanding his
work more critically. Some of the suggestions for the
research can be as follows:
1. Eastern and Western educational philosophies
2. Different educational experiments in India and of
3. Tagore 's contribution to the history of educa-
tion of the modern period in India.
4. How Tagore could be used in Indian education
in the future.
5. Comparative studies of Tagore and Dewey and/or
Tagore and Gandhi, and what they can offer to
6. Critical analysis of Tagore ' s impact on Indian
Contribution to Indian Education
Tagore was one of the greatest prophets of educational
renaissance in modern India, in his relentless revolt against
the unrealistic, alien, mercenary and mechanical system of
education that had obtained a deadening hold on the country
since the introduction of the western system of education
under the British. In his educational thought, within a
single compass, he tried to present the best educational
thoughts of the world, past and present. "He built up a
'forest school' which was really suited to the needs of
modern India" (Sykes, 1943, p. 58) . Through his institution
he brought the cultures of the East and West together,
specially at a time when international amity and under-
standing are sought to be achieved through a comparative
study of the educational systems of all the countries in
Tagore's contribution in the field of aesthetic
education also has been remarkable. From the very beginning
of his school he gave a special place to music. With the
foundation of Visva-Bharati, however, art and music in-
cluding dancing began to be most systematically, widely
and enthusiastically cultivated by the students and
teachers of the institution, until the tradition of aes-
thetic culture of Visva-Bharati acquired a unique reputa-
tion throughout the country and even abroad. Great
Western philosopher, Sidney Hook once said, "Without a
liberal-arts education to undergird or accompany or inter-
penetrate vocational or professional education, the latter
cannot be- adequate. Art, literature, history, philosophy.
religion, the natural and social sciences are not frosting
on the cake of education. They are part of its very
being, ignored at the price of our civilization, and
possibly — in an age in which the sudden death of cultures
is a genuine threat — of its very survival" (Hook, 1975).
In this perspective Tagore's contribution really looks very
Tagore has contributed to the meaning and purpose of
education content and significance which appear to be
richer and fuller than what it was previously. K. G.
Saiyadin noted, "Tagore raised, at least potentially, the
whole status of the teaching profession; he elevated the
child to the pedestal where he thought God had placed him
originally; he visualized the educational process in terms
so rich and comprehensive that the existing educational
system could not assimilate them, could not perhaps even
take them seriously. . . .Because Tagore lived and actually
worked as an educator, education has gained a new depth
and dimension which we must cherish as a priceless trust"
(Saiyadin, 1967, pp. 56-57). In fact, part of Tagore's
greatness as an educationist lies in the fact tha t he
actually translated many of his ideas into practice. He had
a keen and clear appreciation of the relationship between
the useful and the beautiful and he insisted that students
should experience the creative thrill of converting the
useful into the beautiful.
This study was undertaken to determine the nature of
Tagore ' s educational theory and practice and its impact on
Indian education. During the course of study a review of
Tagore 's writing on education and others on Tagore was
presented. A discussion of the major educational problems
that existed in the British period in India and how it
helped in forming Tagore 's theory was also reviewed. This
was added to the early educational experiences of Tagore
to give a complete background for the basis of Tagore 's
The core of Tagore 's educational theory puts greater
emphasis on the complete harmonious development of in-
dividual personality. Tagore believed that education
should help an individual to attain complete manhood, so
that all his powers may be developed to the fullest extent
for his own individual perfection as well as the perfection
of the human society in which he was born. He believed
that education is not merely a means for the growth and
fullness of the individual but it was also concerned with
the whole physical and social milieu in which his life is
lived. Education can become dynamic and vital only when it
is "in constant touch with any complete life." He wanted
the boys and girls to be fearless, free and open-minded,
self-reliant, full of the spirit of inquiry and self-
criticism, with their roots deep in the soil of India but
reaching out to the whole world in understanding, neighor-
liness, cooperation and material and spiritual progress.
With a discussion of the aims of education, Tagore's concept
regarding ideal education was also studied. He believed
that for the growth of an ideal education it is essential
to have an ideal atmosphere, ideal teacher and ideal train-
ing. Actually, Tagore's success lies in the fact that he
did not try to control directly the ideas, feelings, and
values of his children but imaginatively designed an
environment and a program of activities and experiences
which evoked the desired responses. Inspired by the ideal
of the old Indian ashrams he opened his school in a forest
glade and envisaged an integrated view of education in
which the physical and the intellectual, the social and
the moral were not seen as separate from one another, but
as interrelated, as parts of a single comprehensive truth.
A description of practical aspect of Tagore's theory
included the growth and development of the institution,
its different departments, daily activities, and the or-
ganization of curriculum. The description covered a broad
range of years to show the development through these years.
Through his program at Sriniketan Tagore tried to bring to
villages not only more money, but also more enjoyment.
He believed that there could be no real independence for
the nation except through the independence of spirit of all
its countless villages. His work at Sriniketan longed to
make the village a home of welfare and beauty. His
activities at Visva-Bharati included academic education in
Humanities, Science, Music, and Art. It also included
extensive programs on Chinese culture. It tried to bring
the cultures of India and the world together in one place.
Tagore's impact on education in India has not been
well recognized and through discussion it was found that
educational work of Tagore deserves more scrutiny. It
needs to be recognized and evaluated by educationists around
the world. His impact on Indian education has been felt
more, but it has not been, articulated by researchers, or
educationists. Some suggestions have been made to pursue
further research on Tagore as an educationist. Krishna
Kriplani has summarized Tagore's educational work and
contribution. "He was never an armchair idealist; what
he believed in he did himself, pouring all his energy and
his heart into it. He not only supervised all the details
of the school-and-asram administration but participated
in all its activities and himself taught the children"
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Tagore, R. Dhyani Japan. Pravasi , Bhadra, 1336 B.S.
Tagore, R. Karmer Sthayittva. Vichitra , Jaistha, 1337
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Tagore, R. Siksar Sarthakata. pravasi , 1338 B.S. (b) .
Tagore, R. Maktab Madarsar Bang la Bhasa. Pravasi ,
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Tagore, R. Asram Vidya layer Suchana. Pravasi , Asvin,
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Tagore, R. Bankuray Cha trader Uddese. Pravasi , Vaisakh,
1347 B.S. (c) .
Tagore, R. Asramer Rup Vikas . Santiniketan, West Bengal:
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Tagore, R. Chithi Patra. Pravasi , Asvin, 1348 B.S. (b) .
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Tagore, R. Patravali. Visva-Bharati Patrika . Agrahayan,
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Tagore, R. Patravali. Visva-Bharati Patrika, Magh,
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Visva-Bharati, 1358 B.S.
Tagore, R. Visva-Bharati : A Collection of speeches at
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Tagore, R. Palli Prakriti . Santiniketan, West Bengal:
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Tagore, R. . Imraji Sopan, V. I. II. Santiniketan, West
Bengal: Santiniketan Press, 1906 (first ed.).
Tagore, R. Gitanjali . New York: Macmillan, 1914.
Tagore, R. Viehitra Path . Santiniketan, West Bengal:
Santiniketan Press, 1915.
Tagore, R. Indian Students and western teachers. The
Modern Review . April, 1916, 416-422 (a).
Tagore, R. On art and aesthetics . Calcutta: Orient
Longmans, 1916 (b) .
Tagore, R. The medium of education . The Modern Review ,
Oct., 1917 (a).
Tagore, R. My reminiscences . London: Macmillan, 1917 (b) .
Tagore, R. Personality . New York: Macmillan, 1917 (c) .
Tagore, R. Vernaculars for the M.A. degree. A letter.
The Modern Review , Nov. 1918.
Tagore, R. Towards the future. The Modern Review , June
Tagore, R. The centre of Indian culture . Adyar, Madras:
Society for promotion of national education, 1921 (a).
Tagore, R. Letters. The Modern Review . May 1921 (b) .
Tagore, R. Creative unity . New York: Macmillan, 1922 (a).
Tagore, R. Letters from abroad. The Modern Review , June
1922 (b) .
Tagore, R. Notes and comments . Visva-Bharati Quarterly,
October 1923 (a) .
Tagore, R. Visva-Bharati. Visva-Bharati Quarterly ,
April 1923 (b) .
Tagore, R. The guest house of India. Vis va-Bha rati
Quarterly . April 1924 (a).
Tagore, R. The schoolmaster. The Modern Review .
October 1924 (b) .
Tagore, R. Letters to a friend. The Modern Review ,
July 1925 (a) .
Tagore, R. My school. The Modern Review , May 1925 (b) .
Tagore, R. Rabindranath ' s last tour. Visva-Bharati
Quarterly , July 1925 (c) .
Tagore, R. Talks in China . Santiniketan, West Bengal:
Visva-Bharati, 1925 (d) .
Tagore, R. To the child. The Modern Review , May, 1925
Tagore, R. An eastern university . Santiniketan, West
Bengal: Visva-Bharati, Bulletin No. 7, July 1927
Tagore, R. Our founder president in Malaya. Visva-Bharati
Quarterly , October 1927 (b) .
Tagore, R. The Saraswati puja in the City College hostel.
The Modern Review , May 1928.
Tagore, R. The function of a library. Visva-Bharati
Quarterly , January 1929 (a).
Tagore, R. Ideals of education. Visva-Bharati Quarterly ,
April-July 1929 (b) .
Tagore, R. Rabindranath Tagore in Russia . Santiniketan,
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June 1931 (a).
Tagore, R. The religion of man . New York: Macmillan,
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110-112 (b) .
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1936 (b) .
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Bangla Samvat--593 years behind
Bengali Monthly mazazine
Bengali weekly magazine
English monthly magazine
The School (Elementary and Secondary
School at Santiniketan)
Bengali monthly magazine
Bengali monthly magazine
Bengali monthly magazine
Bengali monthly magazine
Name of a place
Name of the rural welfare department
of Visva-Bharati, after it was
formally opened at Surul
Bengali monthly magazine
Bengali monthly magazine
Name of the University of Santiniketan
Name of a book
Name of publisher
English monthly magazine
Bengali quarterly magazine
Quarterly English quarterly magazine
Radha Vinod Jalan (nee, Sonthalia) was born October 25,
1946, in Calcutta, India. She attended schools in Calcutta
and graduated from Seth Soorajmal Jalan Balika Vidyalaya
in June, 1961. She received the degree of Bachelor of Arts
with honors from the University of Calcutta in 1964. She
received the degree of Master of Arts in 1967 from the same
institution. After coming to the United States in June,
1968, she enrolled at the University of Florida and received
her Master of Education degree in 1970, and the Specialist
in Education degree in 1971. She was a teaching assistant
in the Department of Foundations of Education for the entire
term as a graduate student. She is a member of Kappa Delta
Pi and American Association of University Professors. She
is married to Vinod Motilal Jalan and is the mother of a
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Hal G. Lew igv"^ Chairman
Professor of Foundations of Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Vynce A. Hines
Professor of Foundations of Education
I certify that I have read this study and that in my
opinion it conforms to acceptable standards of scholarly
presentation and is fully adequate, in scope and quality,
as a dissertation for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
Austin B. Creel
Associate Professor of Religion
This dissertation was submitted to the Graduate Faculty of
the College of Education and to the Graduate Council, and
was accepted as partial fulfillment of the requirements for
the degree of Doctor of Philosophy.
August, 1976 l/^)\M „ ,-, ^^. ^ '/L
Dean, College of Edud^tion
Dean, Graduate School