Tagore's Philosophy on Education 

The prime moving force that compelled Tagore to establish the Brahmacharyasram is the restlessness of his creative mind. Tagore experts have also identified the reasons: conflict between romantic life of imagination and the life of action and sacrifice; the unhappy experience of school; the rigid routine of home education programme; his journey to the Himalayas with his saint-like father at the age of eleven; the enlightened family environment;

“Education is the instrument fashioned by men to achieve life's goals.” Tagore observes, "He who sees all being in his own self and his own self in all beings, he does not remain unrevealed, that should be the motto of our Indian educational institutions". Tagore wrote "Siksar Herpher" in 1892 which was his first major writing on educational problems and delivered the convocation address to Gurukul Kangri in 1941, his last public utterance on education. By then he was not the same person if we take into account the change that had come over him. There are distinct phases of Tagore's evolution, namely, the Brahmacharyasram or "turning back to past", nationalism, internationalism, cosmicism and loka-siksha. Tagore emphasised different aims of education on different occasions.

"Although at different periods, in different contexts, he (Tagore) emphasised different ideas (as being) of fundamental importance, there is one strain of thought which we may observe running through all his educational utterances and activities either in bold, clear outline or in subtler concealed forms. It is the ideal of the development of all the innate faculties of an individual leading to an all-round, harmonious development of his personality". This state of harmonious development is the state of complete manhood. - UNFULFILLED DREAM Tagore's Model For School Education Still Relevant, ALOKENATH SENSARMA, Statesman, 27/12/2001, [C.ELDOC.N24.27dec01s1.pdf]

The principle adopted by Tagore was: "A man being a consumer must also be a producer". It looks as if he was anticipating Gandhiji's Basic Education Scheme. The tragedy of Western education was succinctly put by Tagore: "We teach the child Geography and rob him of his earth. We teach him grammar and rob him of his language. The child hungers for music and dance, but we thrust a load of facts into his reluctant brain. As Alexander Pope had said " The proper study of man is man " in various situations ~ land, market, streets, festivals etc. Students were not passive receivers of knowledge but discoverers of facts and principles.  Santiniketan: An immortal testimony to Tagore, S R ROHIDEKAR, DECCAN HERALD, 31 DEC 2000 [C.ELDOC1.N30.31dec00dch1.pdf]

The propelling forces

There were two factors that impelled Tagore to start a school:

1.      His son attained the stage when regular education in a formal school became a necessity and his own bitter experience of schooling prompted him to think of a new type of a school for his son.

2.      He felt an inner surging urge to occupy himself in some worthwhile service to humanity in which his spirituality would find fulfilment. Santiniketan was the place suitable for the purpose. So it came into being on December, 22nd, 1901.

The school was to be residential in character and more or less modeled after the ancient hermitage schools of great sages of India, with simple leaf-grass thatched cottages for residence and open air classes under the trees. Education would be free based on the ancient 'Vidya Daan' concept. To start with there were 12 students including his two sons. Soon the school attracted more students which rose to 50.

Tagore's immediate task was two-fold. On the one hand, he started the campaign of stopping the erosion of the soil and on the other he fought a more serious erosion - the mental erosion or rather corrosion which had set in as a result of the purposeless education of the west imparted in our schools and colleges.... because of his harsh comments on the Western education system, Government officials used all means to nip his efforts in the bud. Any one in his place would have succumbed to the tragedy. But not Tagore. He replied to the situation with harder work and a more steady determination to pursue his scheme.  -  Tagore Santiniketan: An immortal testimony to Tagore, DECCAN HERALD, 31 DEC 2000 [C.ELDOC1.N30.31dec00dch1.pdf]  

Selection of activities 

Tagore's originality in the field of education lies not in his aims but in the selection of activities. He prescribed a set of activities so that children going through consideration the organic wholeness of human individuality, economic self-sufficiency through self-employment and development of human faculties. Some of the prominent activities and conditions are: instruction through mother tongue, scope of free reading other than textbooks not for examination but for pleasure and joy; freedom of work; practice of simplicity, austerity but not poverty; self-help, self-discipline, cooperative living...In a nutshell, the steps towards complete manhood may be described as love and freedom leading to creative work  that produces joy. The state of unadulterated joy is the state of complete manhood.  - UNFULFILLED DREAM Ibid. [L. [ C.ELDOC.N24.27dec01s1.pdf]

Music and drawing were added to create joy and an atmosphere to freedom. There was no structured instruction, 'but there was lot of absorption'. To create opportunity for joy of discovery and inquiry, Tagore provided a powerful telescope to watch the sky Students worked on the kitchen garden, incidentally assimilating knowledge about Botany and Chemistry, with related Mathematics to keep accounts.  - >>>>>  Ibid, [L./ 

In our country, the holistic view of education education that develops the whole self and not just the mental faculty was advocated most vigorously by Rabindranath Tagore. It was with this end in view that he set up Visva Bharati. On the occasion of its foundation, Tagore observed. ''Our education should be in full touch with our complete life, economic, intellectual, aesthetic social and spiritual.... In the proposed centre, our culture, music and art must have their prominent seat of honour and not a tolerant nod of recognition'- to enjoy and enjoy is the buzzword today they betray an utter incapacity to do so. All they can think of is to gather round the music system or the idiot box and shake their heads like a bunch of cretins, for they never learnt how to express themselves in the only way we can through dance and music. ..."One of your people, a great thinker asked me to lunch with him. I won't give you his name, but there he was another philosopher, sitting opposite me. Suddenly, he left his chair and began to walk up and down. As soon as thoughts started circulating in his mind, he felt he needed the accompaniment of a circulation of movement, a coordination of his body. This was because his mind felt a vital connection with his body, and his body with the spontaneous and natural movement of his mind." It was this 'vital connection' that colonial education had ruptured by exclusively focussing on the mind and Tagore wanted to restore at Visva Bharati. Music, dance and drama were the means he employed to achieve this wholeness, and he met with considerable success in his venture.  - Why is our education system so joyless?, Ashok Celly, THE PIONEER (DELHI), 13 JAN 1994,[C.ELDOC1.N20.13jan94pio1.pdf]

Vishwabharati — poet Rabindranath Tagore's vision of an institution for ideal education — is at a crossroads and faces a painful metamorphosis into a dilemmatic duality. On the one side, there is emerging a conventional mediocrity, losing its moorings with life and nature, and getting drifted into the hollowness of soulless education a phenomenon Tagore abhorred and condemned in his writings like Shiksha Prasange (On education). On the other hand, there are the desperate attempts of the advocates of aristocratic value-based approach which has virtually led to the elite glass house-like existence of the university. Even the physical destruction of this 'Abode of Peace,' envisioned as the centre for a new, unconventional movement towards educational, cultural and spiritual development, is well in progress.


The Poet's Challenge to Schooling: Creative Freedom for the Human Soul, Jain, Shilpa, Shikshantar Andolan, 01/01/2001, [B.N00.J3]  - Pioneer in Education - Rabindranath Tagore, [B.N00.T2]

“Shantiniketan :The School of A Poet” Uma Dasgupta p.g. 258-303

Foundations of Living, Sykes, Marjorie, Parisar, 01/01/1988,[ R.N00.18]
Tagores philosophy- Ch1 The Challenge of Education, pg 4-10

Rabindranath Tagore: Philosophy of education and painting, Devi Prasad, Rs 45, Code: 81-237-3318-6, NBT


Shantiniketan still has a high concentration of the educated middle class. The community is no longer as national or international as it once was, but one still comes across students from Korea, Japan, France and Germany, or sculptures of Ramkinkar Baig, the barks from Bankura who became modern India's most brilliant sculptor.

Alongside, while studies are more or less confined to books, the increase in the number of students is leading to an unhealthy competition. With all affairs, be it the examinations or cocurricular activities, remaining an internal matter, the element of partiality and groupism has soured the "one family" aspect of the teacher-student relationship. A direct outcome of this groupism and stagnation, is the vicious turn the politics of the students and employees have taken, threatening the very character of the university.  That day is not far when people will want to escape from Shantiniketan as ardently as they now want to rush there in search of the open spaces, fresh air, clean water, relatively quite surroundings, and an ambience of culture. Indeed, the crises are abounding and are manifold, while the resources are miserably scarce. - CRISES ABOUND, RESOURSES SCARCE AT SHANTINEKETAN, Ujjwal K Chowdhury THE  INDEPENDENT (BOMBAY) 26 JUL 1992 [C.ELDOC1.N00.26jul92ind1.pdf]