Bengal National College
National education was another item to which Sri Aurobindo attached much importance. It was included as part of the four-fold Programme of the new Nationalist Party. The movement began well and many national schools were established in Bengal and many able men became teachers, but still the development was insufficient and the economical position of the schools precarious. Sri Aurobindo had decided to take up the movement personally and see whether it could not be given a greater expansion and a stronger foundation, but his departure from Bengal cut short this plan. In the repression and the general depression caused by it, most of the schools failed to survive. The idea lived on and it may be hoped that it will one day find an adequate form and body.
Bengal National College
The Bengal National College started functioning from 15.Aug.1906 with Sri Aurobindo as its first Principal. At an early period he left the organisation of the college to the educationist Satish Mukherjee and plunged fully into politics. When the Bande Mataram [Sedition] case was brought against him, he resigned his post [Aug 1907] in order not to embarrass the College authorities but resumed it again on his acquittal [Sep 1907]. During the 'Alipore Bomb Case' he resigned finally  at the request of the College authorities.
Minutes of a meeting in Sri Aurobindo's hand-writing
National education was another item to which Sri Aurobindo attached much importance. He had been disgusted with the education given by the British system in the schools and colleges and universities, a system of which as a professor in the Baroda College he had full experience. He felt that it tended to dull and impoverish and tie up the naturally quick and brilliant and supple Indian intelligence, to teach it bad intellectual habits and spoil by narrow information and mechanical instruction its originality and productivity. The movement began well and many national schools were established in Bengal and many able men became teachers, but still the development was insufficient and the economical position of the schools precarious. Sri Aurobindo had decided to take up the movement personally and see whether it could not be given a greater expansion and a stronger foundation, .....
Taking up the Movement Personally
Principal of National College
The founding of the Bengal National College gave him the opportunity he needed and enabled him to resign his position in the Baroda service and join the college as its Principal. Subodh Mullick, one of Sri Aurobindo’s collaborators in his secret action and afterwards also in Congress politics,.... had given a lakh of rupees for this foundation and had stipulated that Sri Aurobindo should be given a post of professor in the college with a salary of Rs. 150; so he was now free to give his whole time to the service of the country.
Ed. Note: Monthly pay at Baroda was Rs. 750
When we established this college and left other occupations, other chances of life, to devote our lives to this institution, we did so because we hoped to see in it the foundation, the nucleus of a nation, of the new India which is to begin its career after this night of sorrow and trouble, on that day of glory and greatness when India will work for the world. What we want here is not merely to give you a little information, not merely to open to you careers for earning a livelihood, but to build up sons for the Motherland to work and to suffer for her. That is why we started this college...
Sri Aurobindo in addition to being Principal also taught various subjects.
When he would lecture in the class they would hang upon his lips - it is said even many professors came in to listen - and they found in his informal, unacademic way of teaching something which gripped their hearts, illumined their intelligence, and fired their imagination. He taught most by appearing to teach the least. His presence was an irresistible inspiration and his soft, warm words, shot with flashes of intuition and insight, were evocative and quickening
Advice to National College Students 23.Aug.1907
Sri Aurobindo at Bengal National College - 23.Aug.1907
...If you will study, study for her sake; train yourselves body and mind and soul for her service. You will earn your living that you may live for her sake. You will go abroad to foreign lands that you may bring back knowledge with which you may do service to her. Work that she may prosper. Suffer that she may rejoice. All is contained in that one single advice...
...When the boys of the College and school came up to their beloved Principal one by one, bowed at his feet and garlanded him, it was a sight for the Gods to see...The teachers then requested him on behalf of the boys to speak to them a few words of advice. In response to the desire of the boys to hear from him, he delivered, in a voice choked with emotion, a soul-stirring address...
On 2.August.1907, learning that he was about to be arrested in the 'Bande Mataram Sedition Case', and wishing to spare the Bengal National College any embarrassment, Sri Aurobindo resigned the post of principal of that institution.
On 22.Aug.1907, the students and teachers assembled to record their deep regret at his resignation.. of the high office which he had filled with such conspicuous ability and so much personal sacrifice during the first year of the existence of the college.
Parting with Beloved Principal
When the boys of the College and school came up to their beloved Principal one by one, bowed at his feet and garlanded him, it was a sight for the Gods to see. This touching manifestation of the feeling, roused in the hearts of the boys at the sudden shock of parting with their beloved Principal under such peculiar circumstances, brought tears to the eyes of all present, as it revealed the true inwardness and sanctity of the bond of relationship that binds the pupil to the teacher
The teachers then requested him on behalf of the boys to speak to them a few words of advice. In response to the desire of the boys to hear from him, he delivered, in a voice choked with emotion, a soul-stirring address..
I have been told that you wish me to speak a few words of advice to you. But in these days I feel that young men can very often give better advice than we older people can give. Nor must you ask me to express the feelings which your actions, the way in which you have shown your affection towards me, have given rise to in my breast. It is impossible to express them. You all know that I have resigned my post. In the meeting you held yesterday I see that you expressed sympathy with me in what you call my present troubles. I don’t know whether I should call them troubles at all, for the experience that I am going to undergo was long foreseen as inevitable in the discharge of the mission that I have taken up from my childhood, and I am approaching it without regret. What I want to be assured of is not so much that you feel sympathy for me in my troubles, but that you have sympathy for the cause in serving which I have to undergo what you call my troubles. If I know that the rising generation have taken up this cause, that wherever I go, I go leaving behind others to carry on my work, I shall go without the least regret. I take it that whatever respect you have shown to me today was shown not to me, not merely even to the principal, but to your country, to the Mother in me, because what little I have done has been done for her, and the slight suffering that I am going to endure will be endured for her sake. Taking your sympathyin that light I can feel that if I am incapacitated from carrying on my work, there will be so many others left behind me. One other cause of rejoicing for me is to find that practically all my countrymen have the same fellow-feeling for me and for the same reason as yourselves. The unanimity with which all classes have expressed their sympathy for me and even offered help at at the moment of my trial, is a cause for rejoicing, and for the same reason. For I am nothing, what I have done is nothing. I have earned this fellow-feeling because of serving the cause which all my countrymen have at heart.
The only piece of advice that I can give you now is - carry on the work, the mission, for which this college was created. I have no doubt that all of you have realised by this time what this mission means. When we established this college and left other occupations, other chances of life, to devote our lives to this institution, we did so because we hoped to see in it the foundation, the nucleus of a nation, of the new India which is to begin its career after this night of sorrow and trouble, on that day of glory and greatness when India will work for the world. What we want here is not merely to give you a little information, not merely to open to you careers for earning a livelihood, but to build up sons for the Motherland to work and to suffer for her. That is why we started this college and that is the work to which I want you to devote yourselves in future. What has been insufficiently and imperfectly begun by us, it is for you to complete and lead to perfection. When I come back I wish to see some of you becoming rich, rich not for yourselves but that you may enrich the Mother with your riches. I wish to see some of you becoming great, great not for your own sakes, not that you may satisfy your own vanity, but great for her, to make India great, to enable her to stand up with head erect among the nations of the earth, as she did in days of yore when the world looked up to her for light. Even those who will remain poor and obscure, I want to see their very poverty and obscurity devoted to the Motherland. There are times in a nation's history when Providence places before it one work, one aim, to which everything else, however high and noble in itself, has to be sacrificed. Such a time has now arrived for our Motherland when nothing is dearer than her service, when everything else is to be directed to that end. If you will study, study for her sake; train yourselves body and mind and soul for her service. You will earn your living that you may live for her sake. You will go abroad to foreign lands that you may bring back knowledge with which you may do service to her. Work that she may prosper. Suffer that she may rejoice. All is contained in that one single advice. My last word to you is that if you have sympathy for me, I hope to see it not merely as a personal feeling, but as a sympathy with what I am working for. I want to see this sympathy translated into work so that when in future I shall look upon your career of glorious activity, I may have the pride of remembering that I did something to prepare and begin it.
Growth of National Education
...No year of the new century has been more full of events than 1906–07, our year 1313...
The Bengal National College has not only become an established fact but is rapidly increasing in numbers and has begun to build the foundations of a better system of education. The schools at Rungpur and Dacca already existed at the commencement of the year; but immediately after the Barisal outrage fresh schools at Mymensingh, Kishoregunj, Comilla, Chandpur and Dinajpur were established. Since then there have been further additions, - the Magura School, another in the Jessore District, another at Jalpaiguri as well as a free primary school at Bogra. We understand that there is also a probability of a National School at Chittagong and Noakhali. No mean record for a single year.
Defects of the new National Education
....The new National Education, as inaugurated in Bengal, sought immensely to enlarge the field of knowledge to which the student was introduced, and in so far as it laid stress on experiment and observation, employed the natural and easy instrument of the vernacular and encouraged the play of thought on the subject of study, corrected the habit of spoiling the instruments of knowledge by the use of false methods. But many of the vicious methods and ideas employed by the old system were faithfully cherished by the new, and the domination of the Council by men wedded to the old lines was bound to spell a most unfavourable effect on the integrity of the system in its most progressive features.
Another vital defect of the new education was that it increased the amount of information the student was required to absorb without strengthening the body and brain sufficiently to grapple with the increased mass of intellectual toil, and it shared with the old system the defect of ignoring the psychology of the race. The mere inclusion of the matter of Indian thought and culture in the field of knowledge does not make a system of education Indian, and the instruction given in the Bengal National College was only an improved European system, not Indian or National....
From the beginning of the national movement, in spite of its enthusiasm, force, innate greatness, a defect has made itself apparent, a fatality of insufficient effectiveness has pursued it, which showed that there was a serious flaw somewhere in this brilliant opening of a new era.... The great flaw was the attempt to combine the new with the old, to subject the conduct of the resurgence of India to the aged, the cautious, the hesitating, men out of sympathy with the spirit of the new age, unable to grasp the needs of the future, afraid to apply the bold and radical methods which could alone transform the nation, sweep out the rottenness in our former corrupt nature and, by purifying Bengal, purify India. It is now apparent that it was the Nationalist element which by its energy, courage, boldness of thought, readiness to accept the conditions of progress, gave the movement its force and vitality. Wherever that force has been withdrawn, the movement has collapsed.....National Education languishes because the active force has been withdrawn from it; it does not absolutely perish because a certain amount of Nationalist self-devotion has entrenched itself in this last stronghold.....
The National Council of Education, as it is at present composed, has convicted itself of entire incapacity whether to grasp the meaning of the movement or to preserve or create the conditions of its success. To the majority of the members it is merely an interesting academical experiment...To others the only valuable part of it is the technical instruction given in its workshops. The two or three who at all regard it as part of a great national movement, are unnerved by fear, scepticism and distrust....It is folly to expect that the nation at large will either pay heavily or make great sacrifices merely to support an interesting academic experiment, still less to allow a few learned men to spoil the intellectual development of the race by indulging their hobbies at the public expense. That the people will not support a mere technical education divorced from that general humanistic training which is essential to national culture, has been sufficiently proved...Unless this movement is carried on, as it was undertaken, as part of a great movement of national resurgence, unless it is made, visibly to all, a nursery of patriotism and a mighty instrument of national culture, it cannot succeed. It is foolish to expect men to make great sacrifices while discouraging their hope and enthusiasm...
Divorce from National Movement
National Council of Education Emblem
Apostasy of National Council
...the new policy of the Council not only divorces education from the life of the country, but destroys the sympathy and support of the most progressive elements in the nation... ...We notice that Sj. Hirendranath Dutt at Dacca seems to have openly proclaimed the abjuration of all connection with politics as part of the duty of a "National" school. We must therefore take the divorce of the National Council from the national movement as part of a deliberate and permanent policy... All that we can now expect of the Council is to be a centre of scientific and technical education; it can no longer be a workshop in which national spirit and energy are to be forged and shaped.
Sri Aurobindo's departure from Bengal in 1910 cut short his plan to give a greater expansion and a stronger foundation to National Education. In the repression and the general depression caused by it, most of the schools failed to survive. The idea lived on and it may be hoped that it will one day find an adequate form and body.
'[Sri] Aurobindo Bhavan' at Jadavpur University
Genesis of Jadavpur University
In 1910, the 'Society for the Promotion of Technical Education' (SPTE) was amalgamated with 'National Council of Education' (NCE). NCE henceforth looked after the College of Engineering and Technology, Bengal which by 1940 was virtually functioning as an independent University. After Indian Independence, the Government of West Bengal, with the concurrence of the Government of India, enacted the Jadavpur University Act, 1955 to convert the institute into Jadavpur University with full autonomy on December 24, 1955.
On 11.March.1922, the foundation stone of '[Sri] Aurobindo Bhavan', which is currently the main administrative centre of the university, was laid. The seat of engineering was shifted to the '[Sri] Aurobindo Bhavan' in 1924 when the building was completed.