Saturday May 26, 2018

Visva Bharati University: No longer an epitome of Rabindranath Tagore’s idea of education?

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By Arnab Mitra

Education could not be complete without knowing your own cultural roots.  – Rabindranath Tagore.

Shantiniketan is a celebrated emblem of Bengal’s art and culture. It ignites the renaissance movement of Bengal and discards the British system of education.

William Evert Greeves, former Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, once said, “Visva Bharati University does not throw a challenge to the British system of education, but it refurbishes the orthodox education system for the betterment of humanity.”

The journey of Shantiniketan started with Pathabhaban School, and it gradually became one of the best places of learning after the establishment of Visva Bharati University. The English daily, The Nation, had noted, Using the money he (Rabindranath Tagore) received with his Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, the school was expanded and renamed Visva Bharati University.

Apart from educating, the institute also took a part in building the society. Rabindranath Tagore started ‘Raksha Bandhan’ to unite Hindus and Muslims during the partition of Bengal in the year 1905. The institute adorned with renowned teachers and scholars like C.F. Andrews, Gayatri Devi, Indira Gandhi, Satyajit Ray, Abdul Ghani Khan, Sukriti Chakraberti and Nobel laureate Amartya Sen was a true representative of Indian form of education system.

Rabindranath Tagore did not believe in the formal system of education as he himself had never been to a school and possessed no educational degree. He believed that there was a difference between education imparted and absorbed.  He was disgusted with the imperfect education system that was forced upon Indian children by the British. Therefore, he offered an alternative education system through his Visva Bharati University. He felt that the western mode of education was more harmful, and it channelized the children to learn the textbooks of an unfamiliar culture, resulting in withdrawal from their cultural roots. Therefore, in Tagore’s school, the students were encouraged to be creative and were free to do anything on their wish.

At present, the revered university lacks proper infrastructure and traditional system of education, for which once it was famous worldwide. Also, the university is not competent with the global education. Once the renowned ‘School of Painting,’ now subsumes a few old paintings and sculptures, along with a shabby classroom consisting of less than ten students. The night here turns into an illicit ground for local goons and criminals. The pious ground of education is marred by the illegal activities of playing cards, consumption of alcohol inside the campus.

Once it was the institution of pride and prestige, and now it is the institution of gloom and despair, said an ex-professor of Visva Bharati University.

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  • Its time the university should get back to its fame position!! Probably everyone took it for granted and that is a matter of shame! I believe the officials should analyse what has gone wrong and should plug the lapse.

    • Ankita you are right. the best part is that the university is under the central government and it is one of the premier national institutes. we cannot only blame the state government for this situation.

Next Story

Child Rights Summit: Nations Should Spend More on Education Over Weapons

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Displaced Syrian children look out from their tents at Kelbit refugee camp, near the Syrian-Turkish border, in Idlib province, Syria, Jan. 17, 2018. VOA

Countries should spend more on schooling and less on weapons to ensure that children affected by war get an education, a child rights summit heard Monday.

The gathering in Jordan was told that a common thread of war was its devastating impact in keeping children out of school.

Indian Nobel laureate Kailash Satyarthi, who founded the summit, said ensuring all children around the world received a primary and secondary education would cost another $40 billion annually — about a week’s worth of global military expenditure.

ALSO READ: Politics and Education: A Relationship that contributes a lot in shaping our Future

child rights summit
Nobel Peace Prize laureates Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai listen to speeches during the Nobel Peace Prize awards ceremony at the City Hall in Oslo, Dec. 10, 2014. VOA

“We have to choose whether we have to produce guns and bullets, or we have to produce books and pencils to our children,” he told the second Laureates and Leaders for Children Summit that gathers world leaders and Nobel laureates.

Global military expenditure reached almost $1.7 trillion in 2016, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF said last year 27 million children were out of school in conflict zones.

ALSO READ: Exclusive: How is One Woman Army changing the notions of Education in society?

“We want safe schools, we want safe homes, we want safe countries, we want a safe world,” said Satyarthi, who shared the 2014 Nobel Peace Prize with Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai for his work with children.

Jordan’s Prince Ali bin al-Hussein told the summit, which focused on child refugees and migrants affected by war and natural disasters, that education was “key,” especially for “children on the move.”

“Education can be expensive, but never remotely as close to what is being spent on weapons. … They [children] are today’s hope for a better future,” he told the two-day summit.

Kerry Kennedy, president of Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, a nonprofit group, described the number of Syrian refugees not in school in the Middle East as “shocking” as the war enters its eighth year.

Kennedy cited a report being released Tuesday by the KidsRights Foundation, an international children’s rights group, which found 40 percent of school-aged Syrian children living in Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, and Iraq cannot access education. VOA