Come April 2019, a new-age school will be all set to welcome children on the Shantiniketan campus, established by Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. Taking forward Tagore’s legacy is a descendant from the family, Sudripta Tagore, who is raising money through crowdfunding to build the school brick-by-brick.
Starting off with five children in 2009 as Shantiniketan Shishutirtha, after a decade-long struggle, the orphanage on the same campus now has 16 children. The new school will have tuition facilities for students post school hours, impart special skills to students that will help them get jobs and will be incorporated with the modern pedagogy of school education.
On taking to crowdfunding for setting up his “own school,” Sudripta said: “My title is Tagore but I have been denied loans by many banks. That is when the possibility of crowdfunding emerged.” The English teacher was in the city on Sunday to be part of a programme to commemorate Rabindranath Tagore’s 77th death anniversary organised by Upasana, a city-based socio-cultural forum.
Neither banks nor too many companies have, so far, helped, he said. A dedicated online forum operates for the purpose but for Sudripta, his friends and many of his former students have been a constant support since 2015.
Learning has been at the roots for the Tagores, and Sudripta, too, embarked on a similar journey in 1995, when he first left West Bengal with the idea of “learning” and updating newer pedagogies of school education. The quest took him to many countries and he has been instrumental in setting up schools in many cities, both in India and overseas. But, what he strongly feels now is that schools should be run only by academicians.
With a whole lot of schools being owned and run by business barons or non-academicians, a lot of them are involved in a profit-making business.
“If all the surplus generated, sums could be ploughed back into the education system, we could have some of the best schools in the world. In the coming years, India would be one of the youngest employable populations and we need to have good schools,” he said.
Asked about the idea of setting up a school at Shantiniketan and taking forward the family’s legacy, he said: “Being a Tagore, I grew up in a family atmosphere where learning was always the first priority. Taking that to my advantage, I have been learning, always. It was with this seed of thought of building ‘my own school’ that I returned to West Bengal in 2015. Setting up a school at Shantiniketan is part of a movement.”
Sudripta thinks it is high time that the present-day school education system phases out.
“School education in today’s India needs to change. With the advent of Internet, storing information is no longer going to help any child, and that is what traditional education trains the brain to do. We need to, instead, teach children to apply the same knowledge,” said the teacher, who also emphasised on the changing roles of teachers.
“Teachers need to create an atmosphere in which children can learn and their role today is to observe children very closely, make use of tools to understand their learning abilities and figure out the kind of learners present in a class. This will build a completely different kind of classroom with modern strategies,” said Sudripta.
Speaking about some of the plans he is likely to adopt in the new school, he said: “Differentiated instructions is a concept that I have learned, using which teachers can put children in different groups and assign them tasks, after observing their learning styles. Learning needs to evolve into being participative in nature.”
He said governments have a lot to do when it comes to helping to improve education.
“The government needs to train teachers and make policy decisions that can be monitored. They need to have clear ideas on the expectations from government schools. Sadly, I do not see any government has such expectations,” he said.