The legacies of Tagore, Neruda and Césaire help to define the mission that is education’s responsability : ‘building in the mind of human beings’ an order of the world that might make compatible the urgent demands of the universal and those of the particular. They teach us that all knowledge and all cultures are victories of equal significance as organic symbols of the diversity of peoples and civilizations.
If it is true that the early 21st century has been called the ‘Knowledge Society’, at the time of the internet and its tools, we are all virtually authors, holders and beneficiaries of the most formidable accumulation of knowledge made available to human beings in the whole history of the human race. The distinction made by Montaigne between ‘une tête bien faite’ and ‘une tête bien pleine’ is still applicable today to distinguish the content from the use that is made of it, by exercising a critical capacity, at a time when formal education, at school or at university, is no longer the only ground of education, far from it. The issue is the foundation of humanism and the advance of men and women towards a human community where awareness of the values of justice and dialogue, resistance to enslavement, and also learning responsibility are the sole protection against the many dangers of cultural alienation, sectarianism or formatting of minds.
Every person’s right to education has been enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, conventions on the elimination of all forms of discrimination towards women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Millennium Goals. But the list of obstacles is still a long one: schools that are too often inadequate, an insufficient public supply, growing commercialization of education, indoctrination, etc.
For Tagore, Neruda and Césaire the need for education transcended particularities in a multipolar world, like a passport to social inclusion, economic integration and cultural dialogue.
Tagore believed that all social and individual problems, such as poverty, religious discord and disunity, would find their solution in education. He consistently urged his compatriots to reform their own society and not to expect this as a favour from a foreign government.
He himself turned to constructive national work in the sphere of education. Today the educational institution he founded in rural southern Bengal still exists and is known as Santiniketan.
There were several principles in Tagore’s commitment to education. One was to keep it free from all racial and national prejudice, and train the children of the Santiniketan school to grow up with the awareness that they belong to a larger humanity of varied peoples, ranging from the local villagers to visiting foreigners from around the globe, whom Tagore invited to teach in his school. Mixing local and global was also basic to the combination of studies at his school and university, ranging from the study of Vedic and classical Sanskrit, Arabic and Persian, to the study of Europe, China and Japan.
On the platform at UNESCO’s Executive Council Neruda declared: ‘Education will be our epic!’ for he saw Education as ‘The noblest task, the best thing humanity has done and can do’.
Though as an elected politician or political leader he never found himself in charge of educational matters, Pablo Neruda was nonetheless aware of their urgency in his country and throughout the world.
The book should be for all only an instrument of liberation to which Neruda devoted attention.
The need to pass on knowledge and train for action is inseparable from self-discovery, experience of the other, knowledge of history and learning about the real through books. ‘Book, set me free’ he declared. The knowledge conveyed by the book is at the heart of the poet’s mission as an echo of the great movements that structure human societies.
Césaire was a masterly teacher in the educating of consciousness, and opening up to oneself and the world. Césaire put education at the heart of the citizen’s life and the regeneration of the human condition while thinking that Education and Culture will enable each person to question the world and construct their place in it for themselves.
Educating also means ensuring that every man and woman can fully develop their physical, intellectual and moral capacities in order to be able to participate as a responsible citizen in the life of humanity and the changes required by a new universal.
In a time of permanent digital revolution and technological breakthrough, the current " Knowledge Society ", the accumulation and the supply of knowledge to a great majority of people, the works of Tagore, Neruda and Cesaire intend to provide an overview of key issues redefining, improving and ensuring access to education for all.