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

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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