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Born Free, Learn freely – Tagore’s views on education

“We rob the child of his earth to teach him geography, of language to teach him grammar; his hunger is for the Epic, but he is supplied with chronicles of dates and facts…..Child nature protests against such calamity with all its power of suffering subdued at last into silence by punishment.”

Nobel Laureate, the great poet Rabidranath Tagore did not have any formal academic degree other than the honorary ones that were bestowed on him in later life. He was a genius without a degree, who conquered the world with his writings. Writings which touched a chord in every heart irrespective of nationality, gender, age or status. He was one of the earliest educationists of the world, whose vision about education is very much relevant even today, as we celebrate his 150th birth anniversary (7th May) this year.

Young Rabindranath was averse to formal school teaching which was like bondage. He was therefore mostly home- schooled in literature, language, history, astrology, science etc. The freedom of home gave him the freedom to explore life and nature. He traveled all over the country and all over the world to learn about different cultures and the inherent oneness of mankind. A small flower and an insignificant servant intrigued him as much as the storm and the king. For him education was essentially part of nature, to learned with nature. Let the child be his natural self. Let him run, play and mingle with nature. Nature is a better teacher than machine made books. Freedom is important in education. When the child is happy and free of fear of punishment, he will be more eager to learn; learn not only from his school books, but from many other books, from great people, from nature and from life, from his own mistakes. Freedom gives him wings to experiment and observe. He is in harmony with nature and so grows up into a more balanced person.

Along with subjects like science, mathematics and geography, education in various art forms are equally important. Arts help in developing empathy and sensitivity. Education should build an intimate relationship with one’s cultural and natural environment.

Purpose of education is not just giving information. Dry information makes learning joyless. In fact it is not learning at all. It is just cramming for marks, without feeling and understanding the thing taught. Education should knock the mind out of slumber and ignite the power of thought and imagination. Mere book learning without active involvement of the child will lead to nowhere!

“To read without thinking is like accumulating building materials without building anything. Education should knock at the doors of the mind. If any boy is asked to give an account of what is awakened in him by such knocking, he will probably say something silly. For what happens within is much bigger than what comes out in words. Those who pin their faith on university examinations, as the test of education take no account of this.”

RABINDRANATH  TAGORE

Haven’t we felt this everytime we sit for exams? To get marks we have to interpret a given piece of poetry as the teacher wants and not as we feel. Poetry is essentially born out of freedom of thought. But when it comes to exams and marks, this freedom is robbed! And then we confine knowledge to time limits. Even a child as young as seven is given time limit to complete his/her test paper. Isn’t this ridiculous? We curtail their freedom of expression. Imagination is lost in childhood itself and what is left is just a mechanical human being devoid of the finer emotions and beauties of life.

Children are living being – more living than grown up people who have built shells of habit around themselves. Therefore it is absolutely necessary for their mental health and development that they should not have mere schools for their lessons, but a world whose guiding spirit is personal love.”

Learn from life, learn with love. Learn not the dates of historical events, but more importantly, how those events shaped the society and led to a better development. Count not the number of petals in a flower, but feel the joy it spreads with its simple beauty. Do not confine yourself to the textbooks but extract knowledge from the story books and the vast book of nature spread all around you. Never restrict the freedom of the mind. Let imagination soar as high as the limitless sky and as deep as the depth of the sea.

“I shall rush from peak to peak,

I shall sweep from mount to mount,

With peals of laughter and songs of murmer,

I shall clap to tune and rhythm,

I have so much to say, so many songs to sing,

So much life I have,

So much happiness, so many desires,

The cup of life is full!”

(All quotes are of Rabindranath Tagore).

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  1. Brilliant! On his birth anniversary more than anything else…it is necessary for us to learn the essence of education that Rabindranath Thakur taught so many years ago. A befitting tribute to the brilliance of Gurudev.