Free minds determine and define the progression of society. The liberty that comes with it represents the development curve of a community, culture, society, nation and humanity. One such mind that defined the arc of liberty with progression was the great intellect, literate and Indian freedom fighter Rabindranath Tagore.
The first Indian to win the prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature, he led a life based on the principles of a seeking mind and has inspired generations. One of his poems that express this sentiment reads:
Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
Inspired by his philosophy and the dream of a country run by free minds, Dr Hari Sen laid the foundation of Tagore Education Society in 1964 in the capital of the country, New Delhi. This society operates the Tagore International School from two campuses. Both the schools progressed from being top-grade South Delhi Schools to part of the best schools in the country. The campus in Vasant Vihar was started in 1972 and has completed 50 years of its existence.
Directed by the vision of Rabindranath Tagore, the school has dedicated itself to providing affordable yet modern and high-quality education.
The school grew by leaps and bounds under the supervision of Ms Madhulika Sen, the longest-serving member of the school. Ms Sen has been an indelible part of the school, initially as a teacher and then as a visionary leader. Grooming young minds since 1978, she has helped them complete their learner’s arc at the school and find their passion and purpose in life. After serving for 20 years as the principal, she now supervises the school’s progress as the Senior Education Advisor.
In our search to find the best schools in the country, we crossed paths with the Tagore International School and Ms Madhulika Sen. In an interactive conversation about creating a nation with free minds through quality education based on the ideals of Rabindranath Tagore; she explained to us the pedagogies and the ethos of the school.
So, let’s dive deep into the inspiring story of Tagore International School and learn about its philosophy, vision and learning pedagogies.
The Brainchild of a Free Mind in a Free Country!
Tagore International School is the brainchild of Dr Hari Sen, a free-willed woman with a vision way ahead of her time. Being a high-intellect and motivated student, she completed her BA in English from Bombay University in 1942 at the age of 19. Then she earned an MA in Sanskrit from Benaras Hindu University in 1947. She was then offered a scholarship to the USA for an MA-PhD program in education from the University of California, Berkeley.
Her strong academic background and her dedication towards learning got the attention of many companies, institutes and organisations worldwide, including the newly formed United Nations. Disregarding all these opportunities and following in the footsteps of her inspiration and her love for her country, she returned to India. She laid the foundation of one of the best schools in the country. She dedicated her life to mentoring young minds and creating a country with fearless minds where thoughts and actions break the shackles of mediocrity and move forward on the path of progression and humanity.
Ms Madhulika Sen: The Torchbearer of True Education
Starting her incredible journey as an educator with TIS as a Social Science teacher for middle school, Ms Madhulika Sen soon shifted to teaching Economics to Commerce and Humanities students after completing her Masters’s degree in Economics.
She served the school as Vice Principal of TIS from 1986 to 1995 before taking up the position of principal in 1996. Being the longest-serving member of the school, she is an integral part of the school and a pivotal point of its philosophy. During her tenure, she focused equally on value-based education like inclusivity, affordability, democracy and learning for the future.
Ms Madhulika Sen currently leads the organisation as the Senior Education Advisor and taking about her futuristic education vision and leadership skills, the school management says, “A strong believer in the democratic method, she takes decisions only after healthy debates based on logic and by involving both, students and staff. It is because of her that students fearlessly propose new projects and confidently see them through.”
“A true leader, she unwaveringly credits her team with any success, but for any setback, she takes it on herself as leader of the team,” the school management further adds.
Creating Worthy Citizens of the Country
The Tagore International School has always had a futuristic-education approach for its students. The school focuses on grooming the students to become worthy citizens of the country and the world. Expressing how the school builds and enhances the skill of the students, Ms Madhulika Sen says, “We constantly gauge what skills they will need in the future, and then chalk out projects/assignments, motivators and resource people to help them practise those skills while in school. All our programs are hands-on. From Social outreach programs for the younger ones where they meet with and interact with senior citizens to develop a sense of empathy and responsibility, to the Middle schoolers initiating and operating societies to help the underprivileged, to the senior students running unique business plans to generate money that goes to charity.”
Along with this, the school also ensures the literacy skills of the young minds while training them on soft skills, for they have adopted the 4 C’s practical model based on Creativity, Collaboration, Critical Thinking and Communication.
Further asserting her views on the learning pedagogies at the school, Ms Madhulika Sen says, “The world we live in today has shrunk, and it is easy to reach out to people in other countries in a jiffy. TIS has been doing this since 2000, though. Our international programs have seen us build partnerships with schools in many countries, from China, Japan, Singapore and Pakistan in Asia to the UK, Germany and France in Europe, to Australia, New Zealand and the African continent. Our students and teachers have visited these schools, and we have had return visits too. The learning gained thus is immense. The highlight, however, is the virtual learning program we have had with a school in China since 2008, where students on the two sides learn Kathak, Taichi, Yoga, Calligraphy and Art from native teachers. All this helps our students be absolutely at home once they graduate and explore different countries for further study or employment.”
“A signature event of TIS, LEAD On, is an annual one-day summit for Heads of Student Councils of schools across Delhi NCR. This sees leadership-skill building activities along with addresses and QA sessions with two very eminent Keynote Speakers. The entire event, from logistics to invites, from budgeting to food, is done by the student body. This is hands-on learning of organisational skills,” she further adds, explaining the continuous learning arc of the school.
Curating a Holistic Development
The school recognises the importance of non-academic activities for the holistic grooming of students and has ensured that every student participates and becomes a part of it. Describing how the school has integrated that into its curriculum, Ms Madhulika Sen says, “There are nearly 25 options offered to the students, from Public Speaking to Technology to learning foreign languages, and taking care of our Natural Heritage. Art is integrated with other subjects. Students from grade 1 start learning about national and internationally renowned artists and their styles, aiming to make them appreciate art and art forms.”
“The clubs offered by the school are complementary to academic education. They develop specific skills that are crucial for one’s career. They aim to make students more qualified and confident to adapt to the real world. Club activities for classes VI-VIII are held on a weekly basis during school hours. The club meetings for senior school students also happen on a regular basis, and students are mentored for interschool, national, and international level events,” she further adds.
A Student Centric School for Free Minds
The school, based on the philosophy of curation of free minds, has launched and initiated many programs for completing the learner’s arc of its students. For this, the school has launched various programs like:
- Career Aptitude Program for opportunities after school.
- Internship Program for skill building.
- Peer Mentoring Program for instilling humanitarian values.
- An Inclusive Environment for providing equal education to everyone.
- Safety Club to equip students to handle difficult situations.
- Counselling for support, care and growth.
The Trendsetter of Modern Learning
While being one with the entire world in following the model of personalised learning, Tagore International School has built an environment at the campus that transmits learning through its every corner. The whole building is used as a Leaning Aid (BALA)where the students learn about everything from mensuration to the SDGs outside the four walls of the classroom too.
Further outlining the modern practices followed at the school, Ms Madhulika Sen says, “All the classrooms are equipped with the latest AV technology, which is available for the students to use too. There are specialised labs for the Physical, Chemical and Biological Sciences, Home Science, Social Sciences and Languages, which are used for extended, practical learning.”
Pioneer and a Leader of Equality and Dignity
Following the philosophy left behind by Guru Rabindranath Tagore, TIS is a leader in recognising the equality and dignity of each individual. With that view, over the years, the school has initiated a number of programs to bring effective change in society. And the school considers that its greatest achievement as it has not only aimed to bring change through campaigns within the nation but has also expressed its views on a global platform like the United Nations.
A few of those many campaigns that the school has initiated are:
- Breaking Barriers – A Human Rights Campaign especially designed for the LGBTQIA+ community.
- Flawless Flaws – A campaign to support acid attack survivors.
- SOCH – The Society of caretakers of Heritage – an initiative to create awareness about this incredible country’s Heritage.
- Project Saksham – empowering and advocating the vision of Rabindranath Tagore of equality and dignity of each individual, irrespective of physical or intellectual differences.
- Project Sehpaathi – a project aimed at facilitating quality education to students from every section of society.
The school has been recognised in several instances for its incredible contribution to society. A few of the many awards that the school has received over the years are:
- 1 School for Social Engagement in New Delhi by Education Today
- One of the top 21 schools in the country for Mental Health and well-being
- Zero Waste School Award under the Education for Sustainable Development category
- 1 School for Holistic Education across the country
- 8 in the country and No.2 in Delhi for being SDGs Committed School by Education World
‘Enabling the Mind to find the Ultimate Truth!’
Being a school that is based on the philosophy and ideas of the great Rabindranath Tagore, the school grooms the students in that direction. Envisioning the future and the school moving forward, Ms Madhulika Sen says, “We recognise that schools grow in an environment of continuous learning. This is all about having dynamic leaders and systems in place, ensuring that the curricula do not focus on preparing students for the ‘now’, but for citizens of the ‘future’. We at TIS aim to engage the students in their own learning by having a stake in deciding what, how much and how they learn. Increased involvement of parents and the community, both social and the industry, is also on the radar. A system to group students ability-wise, rather than according to age, and grading according to practical and logical potential versus based on simple regurgitation of facts, and reducing textbooks to take learning out of the classroom into the practical world are also being worked on.”
“The spectrum of collaboration with international counterparts will be widened, with resources and learning being shared to pull down barriers to knowledge. Core values are woven into the TIS fabric. With every generation of learners, we send out individuals who are fully equipped to navigate the world socially, emotionally, practically and smartly. They will be able to adapt to any situation easily. They will also be empowered to support their peers and take risks,” she concludes.