Integrating individual and social dimensions of education: A comparative study of John Dewey and Rabindranath Tagore

Francis Assisi Samuel, Fordham University


In this global village, rugged individualism can only bring about chaos, disintegration, and moral degradation. Human beings, therefore, need a philosophy of education based on the dialectical vision of integrating the individual and social dimensions. This research attempts to explore the perspectives of Dewey and Tagore on this issue, compare and contrast them, and delineate their relevances for today. The overarching theme of Dewey's philosophy was human fulfillment through interaction with nature, which embraced both the individual and society. Democracy, for him, best integrated the individual and social dimensions. In pedagogy, curriculum, and administration, he stressed the importance of democratic ideal. This was one of his greatest contributions to modern education. His vision, however, did not transcend the social pragmatism, and his concept of morality lacked an ultimate explanation. The key concepts of Tagore's philosophy were harmony and fullness. He perceived the individual as a finite-infinite in search of fullness and harmony with all existence. His educational vision found its best expression in Visva-Bharati where the world makes its home in a single nest. Tagore tried in his own way to integrate the individual and social dimensions of education in pedagogy, curriculum, and administration. His attempt to bring about harmony among the individual, social, international, and transcendental dimensions of education was commendable; however, his school's residential and religious nature was criticized. Dewey and Tagore were compared and contrasted. The former was an instrumentalist and the latter a transcendental humanist. Both placed the child at the center of education; their curricula were open and flexible, and their administrative styles collegial. Dewey's educational philosophy attempted to embrace the individual and the social, while Tagore's, the international and the transcendental as well. The former, thus, remained horizontal and the latter, horizontal and vertical. Dewey and Tagore are relevant today. Dewey's concepts of social individual and democratic ideal help to eliminate illiteracy and caste mentality, and encourage secularism and social reconstruction. Tagore's vision of the finite-infinite and international education prevents misunderstanding and war, helps to appreciate diversity and multiculturalism, and advocates cooperation in international issues such as the environment and world peace.

Subject Area

Educational theory|School administration|Curricula|Teaching

Recommended Citation

Samuel, Francis Assisi, "Integrating individual and social dimensions of education: A comparative study of John Dewey and Rabindranath Tagore" (1993). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI9412148.