Tagore’s Innovation in Open and Distance Learning System: Lok Siksha Samsad
Rabindranath Tagore’s Vishwa Bharati, established in 1901,
is a well-known innovation in the education system. What is perhaps
less known is his innovation in the open and distance learning (ODL)
system. A few years into his establishing Vishwa Bharati, he realized
the pressing need to take education to the doorsteps of the unreached.
He observed, “Universities here are like a lighted railway compartment
in a train passing through the countryside which is enveloped in
darkness.” His goal was to empower those people, who never had the
opportunity to get a formal education, with necessary knowledge and
skills. In 1939, he was inspired by the ideas to establish the Lok
Siksha Samsad or the Peoples’ Education Council, which was the
foundation of the first open ODL system in India and perhaps in the
world. He ensured that the students of this ‘non-formal’ system received
all the educational facilities necessary for their knowledge and skill
development through a network of the resources available at Vishwa
Bharati and Sriniketan. This paper draws upon some of the original
articles of Tagore to understand his philosophy behind this innovation.
The paper further attempts to elucidate the innovative aspects of Lok
Siksha Samsad with reference to the parameters of innovation, such
as novelty, meeting specific needs, feasibility, scalability and costeffectiveness.
The findings of this paper are expected to throw light on
the potential of Tagore’s innovation to introduce new ideas and practices
into the present ODL system for skill development.