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date: 23 October 2021

Tagore’s Perspective on Decolonizing Educationlocked

Tagore’s Perspective on Decolonizing Educationlocked

  • Mousumi MukherjeeMousumi MukherjeeInternational Institute for Higher Education Research & Capacity Building, O.P. Jindal Global University

Summary

Decolonization is a historic process that picked up momentum in the second half of the 20th century, whereby several countries of the Global South in Asia, Africa, and Latin America successively gained independence from European colonial rule and became sovereign modern nation-states. However, territorial independence from an external ruling power alone could not bring an end to all the social, political, and economic problems ushered in by hundreds of years of imperialism. This fact was realized long before independence from colonial rule by Rabindranath Tagore within the context of British colonial India. Hence, even before territorial and political decolonization, Tagore sought to decolonize the minds of people through education reform by first setting up his own school in 1901 and then establishing Visva-Bharati University in 1921. In fact, Tagore, who is the author of the national anthems of two independent modern South Asian nation-states, never saw independent India. He died in 1941 as a British colonial subject, six years before the independence of India from colonial rule in 1947. While many indigenous intellectuals of his era adopted violent and nonviolent methods to fight against British imperialism, Tagore devoted much of his adult life to the pursuit of freedom through pedagogic reforms.

Tagore’s philosophy and practice of pedagogic reform sought to “decolonize education” in British colonial India. Tagore’s own writings on education beginning in 1892 reveal that his philosophy and practice to “decolonize education” was based on the memory and critical reflections on his own experiences as a student in mainstream schools during the British colonial era in India. Tagore’s philosophy of education, institutionalized through his decolonizing pedagogic reform work in his school and university at Bolepur, Shantiniketan, were concrete responses of a highly creative and critical-thinking indigenous intellectual to the problems of the mainstream education system during his time. Hence, studying Tagore’s perspective on “decolonizing education” can provide us with a deeper understanding of the educational problems posed by British imperialism in India, as well as the evolution of these problems in the colonial metropole, which became global in nature through the process of colonialism, as has been argued by a number of academics, including modern British historian Michael Collins and postcolonial Indian academic Sanjukta Dasgupta.

Subjects

  • Educational Theories and Philosophies

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