Tagore’s pioneering practices of education

Tagore and LK Elmhirst, photo from Parabaas (July 15 2001)

Tagore was deeply dissatisfied with the system of education. Education and pedagogy therefore became Tagore’s preoccupation. He decided to found his own school in 1901, with 5 students and 5 teachers.  This evolved into an entire university, which Tagore named Visva-Bharati.  The Sanskrit name, as Tagore explained at the university’s inaugural ceremony in 1921, means ‘where the whole world forms its one single nest’.

The philosophy behind the university was unique. First, it would bring together knowledges from the East and West.  Second, the university would connect to, and become an integral part of the community within which it was located.  Tagore’s objective was to break with the traditional model of the university where the elite pursued knowledge for its own sake. Rather, a university must touch the lives of ordinary people and build a true human community where no one was marginalized.  It was no accident that Tagore’s Visva Bharati was located in a village and not in a city, not amidst the urban, British-schooled affluent classes.  Very close to Visva Bharati Tagore established the Institute of Rural Reconstruction, yet another institution designed specifically to serve the rural economy.

LK Elmhirst was an agricultural economist trained in Cornell University, USA who was invited by Tagore to assume the directorship of the  that Tagore established.  Tagore wrote to him:

I remember how you came fresh from your university and you were absurdly young, but you were not the lean academic or aridly intellectual. With your instinctive humanity you came into the closest touch with the living being which is the village, and which is not a mere intellectual problem that could be solved through the help of arithmetical figures. Continue reading »

As one of the earliest educators to think in terms of the global village, Rabindranath Tagore’s educational model has a unique sensitivity and aptness for education within multi-racial, multi-lingual and multi-cultural situations, amidst conditions of acknowledged economic discrepancy and political imbalance.  explores Rabindranath Tagore’s contribution.

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Our Tagore events

  • Oct 6, 2012 AUTUMN EXTRAVAGANZA, Michael Power St. Joseph High School, Toronto. A variety show with Tagore’s works, and a multicultural Dance Ensemble with folk dances of Ukraine, Chile, and India.

  • Sep 25, 2012 'Walking Alone: Justice and Inequality in Tagore's thought', talk by Ananya Mukherjee-Reed at Princeton University, USA.

  • May 4, 2012 Soul of Spring,McMichael Art Gallery, Kleinburg, Ontario. A medley of music, dance and poetry based on Tagore's play. It was performed during an exhibition of Tagore's paintings 'The Last Harvest' at the gallery.

  • Jan 19, 2012 'Race and Diversity in Tagore', talk by Ananya Mukherjee-Reed at the University of Toronto

  • Sept 30, 2011 Tagore reading at the Festival of South Asian Literature and the Arts

  • October 2, 2011 A panel on Tagore featuring Uma Dasgupta and Martha Nussbaum on Writers & Company, CBC Radio One Broadcast time 3:05 pm Eastern. Click here for more details and podcast
  • Dec 3-4, 2011: A film festival featuring the North American premier of two films based on Tagore's work.
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