Tagore’s Educational Philosophy in 21st Century: An Inspiration or a Struggle


Rabindranath Tagore was born in Bengal in the late 19th century. With growing up he observed the education system around him. According to him, this system was producing job-oriented people rather than fine humans. His idea of educational philosophy bears great significance in Indian literature. In 1913 he won Nobel Prize in literature, the first non-western to receive such honor. He was not merely an ideal but a practitioner. As he started working towards his aim in the early 20th century, when the subcontinent was going through colonization, his ideology faced multiple issues. But no one can neglect the significance of his educational philosophy in the field of literature. His passion for education can be observed through his following saying:

“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…. The desire to know is the law of human nature.” R.N Tagore

To highlight Tagore's educational philosophy.
Educational Philosophy: Education for All

Tagore’s Aims of Education

Tagore’s objectives were not only career-oriented but self-oriented. He put great emphasis on personal development and compatibility with culture and society. Letter written by Tagore in 1912:

‘’What we want to be and what we want to learn are inseparably connected together.’’

Image is to highlight saying of Tagore's about his Educational Philosophy
Aims of Educational Philosophy

Following are aims of behind his educational philosophy:

Self Realization

In his view, self-awareness is an essential aspect of learning. According to him, one person should know what he wants to do and what he wants to read. These two are inevitably connected. One should know that what is intriguing for him. And one should define oneself for own, that view of society’s wrong and right must not disturb him to the extent that he starts living a dual or fabricated life.

Independence or Freedom

Now the 21st century is knowing for the trend of liberation in every aspect of life. People are pointing out the significance of the independence of an individual. That individuality is the core belief of Tagore’s educational philosophy. For him, education should be given to everyone out beyond the ideas of rich or poor, so that every single soul can feel the pleasure of freedom or liberation.

“The character of good education is that it does not overpower man; it emancipates him.”

From his point of view, freedom is not only a physical entity rather than that is more like freedom from oneself, his confused thinking, and society’s biased standards.

Intellectual Development and Perfection

Tagore was a perfectionist in his ideas. He aimed to create a perfect environment for a disciple to learn through. He desired intellectual development for every child that is his right from birth. According to him, intellectual development is more important. Children should learn to think critically; they should unlearn and relearn accordingly. He was not the supporter of producing fine laborers but the perfect humans.

Formation of Better Society: Transmission of Culture

Tagore’s goal was to transform society which was only possible through a transfer of culture. The human interaction with his environment and nature can make him attach to his cultural values, and these values should be transferred into coming generations. Therefore, he put great emphasizes on historical literature and its learning.

Social Development: Universality

In the 21st-century, globalization spread at a larger pace through technology and industrialization. Tagore has a similar idea of universality that he suggested aligning oneself with the whole world. And should think for the greater gains which includes humanity. At some point, he discourages the idea of imperialism and nationality. But he promoted universality through education. His idea was to make students able to align with the universe through education.

Rural Development

In this time, while people are hustling towards urban life without thinking of relevant aspects. Tagore suggested that our educational system should prepare students; those who don’t feel ashamed in doing work for or in their area. People who work according to their regional needs. Rather than rushing towards developed areas, people should know to work in their area and make it a better place.

As he said on June 26, 1937 at Press communique by government of Madras:

”There is little or no training in the power of observation, hardly any practical work… the teaching usually tend to divorce the pupil from village life and hereditary occupation rather than help to train better villagers.”

Source: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/346083693_Rabindranath_Tagore’s_Philosophy_of_Education_and_Development_in_India

How to Achieve Goals

R.N Tagore didn’t define his idea in certain way but from his writings one can observe that to achieve his goals, he talk about following few things:

Nature based Education

In today’s world, where technology is evolving every passing moment our means are converting into more and more machine-specific learning. We need to look around, slow down and make connections with nature. Tagore’s view was that every child should stay connected with nature till twelve years of age while learning. He was sure that, through a nature-friendly environment, a person can learn more and develop a better understanding of the world.

Mother Tongue as a Medium of Instruction

No one can deny the significance of the mother language in the learning process. From a Bengali background, Tagore was a spokesperson of mother tongue importance. He said that through eradication of the language barrier, we develop education for all class systems. Where a person with any background can learn and thrive under his or her choices. He pays tribute to his brother by saying:

”While all around was the cry for English teaching, my third brother was brave enough to
keep us to our Bengali course. To him in heaven my grateful reverence.”

Eradicate Class Culture

Class culture always remains a huge hurdle in the way of development. For any society to become prosperous, the first and foremost step is to minimize class difference as much as possible. As Tagore, despite his rich family background, he vocalizes for other social classes. He was of the view that education should be provided to the public in a way that eliminates the class factor.

Source: https://echowriter.com/think-critically-10-useful-ways-to-help-your-kids/

Tagore’s Educational Philosophy: Implications

There should be no gap between ideology or idea and its practical implications. As far as Tagore’s educational philosophy is concerned, we can accept the fact that he was not wrong at all. His ideas were great and worth implying on the current system also. But what use of democracy if it brings no benefits to society, same as what good is idea if not come to practice. All ideas of Tagore should be implemented, as they will help in altering the environment individually, societally, and globally. These ideas will bring changes like removal of class difference, better individuals, harmony among humans, mental development, sensitivity, and a better understanding of upcoming problems which surely is the need of time.

Source: https://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00098123/00001/70x

Limitations of Tagore’s Educational Philosophy

Tagore was a man of education as during hostile situation he keep talking about educational reforms. Following are the limitations he was facing:

Hostile Colonial Environment

In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, the subcontinent was going through a worse period of continuous conflict at home. The people were fighting for their freedom right from the British government. So, the odds were not much in his favor. As people and the Government of India were more focusing on the adverse situation of a homeland.

Lack of Funds

When there is a war at home ground, no one thinks about anything other than saving themselves. Governments are busy financing war or protests. So the Tagore’s idea was not getting enough funds. Though he started his educational institution, speed was slow due to hurdles in his way.

Inadequate Teachers

The worst disappointment to Tagore’s expectations was the inadequacy of the teaching faculty. They were not as passionate or concerned about well being of students as he was. He has to recommend them to continue to work according to his ideas. This continuous struggle made him hopeless sometimes.

Compatibility Issues Between Students and Teachers

As the teacher’s methodology was not compatible with him, the same was the case between teachers and students. They complain about students’ attitudes, while on the other hand, it was difficult to control these disciples in an open environment.

Guardian Dissatisfaction

The parents were also behind the time, were not ready to foresee the phenomenal aspects of Tagore’s educational philosophy. They were worried that their children were slow from the rest of the students. If they have any idea, what Tagore’s was suggesting, they would love him.

Source: https://ecommons.luc.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2587&context=luc_diss


If we say that Tagore was a hopeless romantic, it would not be wrong. He surely was an idealist but a practitioner too. He proposed an educational philosophy and work hard to make it a reality through institution building. But he must know that he suggested the whole transformation of an existing educational system which took time. Now, from the 21st century’s perspective, no one can deny the significance of his educational philosophy. This philosophy of Tagore is both; an inspiration to pursue and a struggle to continue.

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