Rabindranath Tagore is well known the world over for his Noble Prize in Literature for his spiritual poetic renditions in the Gitanjali. He wrote beautiful stories which captured the heart and soul of different characters and landscapes. Besides being a poet and writer of great eminence, he was an educator par excellence. He established “Shantiniketan” and Viswa Bharthi University which were testimonies to his deep concern and vision about what education should truly reflect.
While growing up, Rabindranath Tagore become greatly disillusioned with the rote way of learning and teaching which he felt squelched his creativity and imagination. It was his disillusionment with the then-prevailing education system which was textbook- and rote-oriented which made him create his own alternative school and university based on his endearing views on education.
Rabindranath Tagore’s famous verses which are given below capture his vision of education.
“Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth… “
He envisioned education which had a humanistic and naturalistic approach and where children could learn in the midst of nature. He also emphasized the importance of the arts as a means of self-expression of the individual. “Shantiniketan” was an embodiment of his vision and was a school where children learn under trees in an open atmosphere. Painting, literature and poetry became an integral part of the learning imparted there. In fact, Rabindranath Tagore wrote many of his plays in “Shantiniketan,” and they were staged by students of the school.
Rabindranath Tagore later established the Visva Bharti University. Visva Bharthi means the communion of the world with India. He believed in universal values of freedom and oneness of the whole of humanity. The university was established mainly as a place for world scholars to meet and share different artistic talents and ideas. He also believed that the cultural aspects of a nation had to be appreciated, and he revived many folk dances and arts. He invited artists, scientists, philosophers and spiritual thinkers to share their thoughts and ideas. His aim was to open up the minds of world citizens to appreciate the variety of talents on display in the world.
Both Shantiniketan and Viswa Bharti seem like idealistic notions of education models.
In the prevailing scenario, learning about and visiting such places of learning can inspire serious educators to make learning more humanistic, open and make students more appreciative of nature and the arts.