Selected Moments of the 20th Century

A work in progress edited by Daniel Schugurensky
Department of Adult Education, Community Development and Counselling Psychology,
The Ontario Institute for Studies in Education of the University of Toronto (OISE/UT)


Rabindranath Tagore starts school combining Western and Indian philosophies

On 1901, with the dawn of the century, a small but influential educational development took place at Bolpur, outside the city of Calcutta. That year, the poet, novelist, painter, composer, social reformer and educator Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) created his own school, the Santiniketan, as a protest against the existing system of education in India at that time. The school attempted at combining Western and Indian philosophies of education, and eventually became a university in 1921. 

The years following the creation of the school were particularly devastating for Tagore. His wife died in 1902, one of his daughter passed away in 1903, followed by the death of his younger son in 1907. He coped with these tragedies by writing and composing almost continuously, and  in 1913 he won the Nobel Prize of Literature. In 1915 was awarded the knighthood, which he surrendered in 1919 as a protest against the Massacre of Amritsar, where British troops killed some 400 Indian demonstrators who were protesting colonial laws.

Tagore was opposed to nationalism and militarism, and through his writings and his teachings promoted spiritual values and the creation of a new world culture founded in multi-culturalism, diversity, service to others and tolerance. Tagore was always consistent with these principles, and soon became a spiritual and creative leader. He was an early advocate of Indian Independence, and had a great influence over Gandhi, who was his friend.

Throughout his life, Tagore published extensively, including poems, novels, stories, textbooks, and treatises on history and pedagogy. He used the funds collected from his writing and lecturing to expand upon the school he had founded in 1901, now known as Visva Bharati. Tagore's own education started with private tutors, and continued in several schools in India and in England. In the latter country he attended London's University College, where he studied law, but abandoned after a year without completing those studies. Then, he continued his path of lifelong learning, always taking on new challenges. 

The multi-cultural educational efforts carried out by Tagore became an inspiration to educators around the world, and schools following his philosophy of human unity were created in many countries. Some of his ideas can be found in his conversations with H.G. Wells and Albert Einstein.. Ironically, an advocate of peace throughout his life, Rabindranath Tagore died in on August 7, 1941, in the midst of a horrific world war.  



Profile -- Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) [online]. Available: (February 23, 2001).

Rabindranath Tagore [online]. Available: (February 23, 2001).

Rabindranath Tagore classes [online]. Available: (February 23, 2001).

Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941) [online]. Available: (February 23, 2001).


Prepared by DS
February 2001

Citation: Author (2001). Title. In Daniel Schugurensky (Ed.), History of Education: Selected Moments of the 20th Century [online]. Available:  (date accessed).

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