Trying to ensure a shared understanding

Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Laureate, educator and composer of the National Anthems of both India and Bangladesh.

Rabindranath Tagore, Nobel Laureate, educator and composer of the National Anthems of both India and Bangladesh.

One of the joys of working over many years with friends and colleagues in India is that I have been able to establish links between individuals both in that country and elsewhere in the world. Usually this has been a case of putting teachers from India in touch with colleagues in the UK and enabling them to exchange ideas and learn from each other. The opportunity to develop an appreciation of other cultures and the ways in which educational provision is made in different countries is one of the great pleasures of working internationally.

One particular joy has been the linking of a young boy in India, the son of one of our MA students with a girl who attends the primary school in which my wife teaches. These two young people share a passion for cricket, a game which they both play and of which they are very knowledgeable. On a couple of visits to India I have been exposed to the quick bowling of this young Indian tyro, usually in fading light, at the end of a day’s work and having had absolutely no practice (well that’s my excuse for batting so badly! – I’ll be there next week looking to do better.) and I can certainly vouch for his emerging talent. Likewise, having pupil at my wife’s school I am equally cogniscent with her enthusiasm and knowledge.  An exchange of letters between these two children has enabled them not only to share a mutual interest, but also to learn something of their home lives and the very different cultures in which they live.

Earlier this year my MA student, along with others from her cohort had an opportunity to visit Northamptonshire and in particular the school where my wife works. Here she was able to see a display that included letters and pictures sent to England by her son taking pride of place within the school, and indicating the importance of this personal link between children. She was also able to spend time with the English pen pal who proudly took her around the school and talked about her own educational experiences.

I do believe that international contact such as this can play an important role in helping children and adults to understand the differences of culture, religion, diet and expectations that shape our world. Perhaps more importantly, I believe that the more we spend time in the company of those who come from different backgrounds, the more readily we understand the similarities in our lives that bind us together as human beings.

A couple of days ago I received a video recording sent from India by my student and her son. It shows children in an Indian school teaching the meaning of their National Anthem. The film was made to celebrate Teachers’ Day (September 5th). At the end of the video the children proudly proclaim that they have taught the viewers of this short film something that they probably didn’t know. They then ask that we should make the effort to teach them something new.

The Indian National Anthem, “Jana Gana Mana” was written by Rabindranath Tagore, himself a great educational pioneer who believed fervently that children should learn not only about their own cultures, but also those of others around the world. I feel sure that he would have enjoyed the video recording linked from this page and would most certainly have approved of the invitation made by the children to see learning as a shared experience.

Click on the highlighted words to view the video.

National Anthem

The Bengali script (Bengali was Tagore’s first language) of the anthem I always think looks particularly beautiful. However, in case you have only as much Bengali as myself, a translation of the Indian National Anthem is posted here followed by the lovely Bengali script

Thou art the ruler of the minds of all people,

 Dispenser of India’s destiny.

 Thy name rouses the hearts of Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat and Maratha,

 Of the Dravida, Utkala and Bengal;

 It echoes in the hills of the Vindhyas and Himalayas,

 mingles in the music of Yamuna and Ganga and is

 chanted by the waves of the Indian Ocean.

 They pray for thy blessings and sing thy praise.

 The saving of all people waits in thy hand,

 Thou dispenser of India’s destiny.

 Victory, victory, victory to thee.


জনগণমন-অধিনায়ক জয় হে ভারতভাগ্যবিধাতা!

পঞ্জাব সিন্ধু গুজরাট মরাঠা দ্রাবিড় উৎকল বঙ্গ

বিন্ধ্য হিমাচল যমুনা গঙ্গা উচ্ছলজলধিতরঙ্গ

তব শুভ নামে জাগে, তব শুভ আশিষ মাগে,

গাহে তব জয়গাথা।

জনগণমঙ্গলদায়ক জয় হে ভারতভাগ্যবিধাতা!

জয় হে, জয় হে, জয় হে, জয় জয় জয় জয় হে।।