The Decline of the Guru Shishya Parampara

The Decline of the Guru Shishya Parampara

What is guru shishya parampara and why is it diminishing?


गुरु गोविन्द दोऊ खड़े , काके लागू पाय|

बलिहारी गुरु आपने , गोविन्द दियो बताय||

“If God and my guru are present before me, I’ll first touch my guru’s feet because they have taught me who God is.” Kabir Das 


Up until a few years ago, teachers in India were respected and seen equal to God. This was called the Guru Shishya Parampara and was the system that was followed in ancient Indian schools or gurukuls. In the Guru Shishya Parampara, gurus didn’t just teach certain subjects from a set curriculum, they also imbibed values like empathy, kindness, altruism and ethics in their students.

The Guru Shishya Parampara turned a teacher into a mentor. They helped their students find their purpose in life and set them up for the journey of life. These mentors instilled values in their students and taught them to be empathetic, responsible and give back to society. As an acknowledgement of their teachings, the students offered the teacher a Guru Dakshina, which is similar to a fee or payment. This dakshina could be monetary, but often it was a task that the teacher asked his students to complete.

Also read: Teachings of Guru Nanak | Lessons on Empathy and Kindness

Why Are We Losing Good Teachers?

But in modern India, this guru-shishya relationship is diminishing. There are only a handful of teachers, who care about students and teaching. Teachers in India are only bothered about the syllabus and monetary compensation; the Guru Dakshina. As a result, we have students without knowledge of how the real world works or civic empathy. 

But, the teachers are not to blame here. There are several reasons why teachers in India have changed.

The Teachers in India are

  • Underpaid
  • Overworked
  • Without any job security
  • Disrespected

According to UNESCO’s 2020 report, 42% of teachers in private and public sector jobs have no contract and they are working on a salary that’s less than 10,000 rupees per month. 

This proves most of the teachers in India are overworked, underpaid and even have no job security. While the population of good teachers is declining, the number of coaching centres is increasing. The education sector used to be 91.7 billion USD in 2018 has increased to 117 billion dollars in 2020.

During the pandemic, we got used to online classes and big ed-tech firms took advantage of that. Our social media profiles were dotted with advertisements for different courses, whether they were teaching skills like coding, designing, animation etc., or subjects for competitive exams. It shows how the education industry is saturated, while we’ve become just a number for big corporations rather than students.

On the surface, it feels like the marketing and sales teams of these companies are more active than the teachers. They teach us from a set syllabus and carefully curated handbooks. The teachers train us to achieve cut-offs for different competitive exams like JEE or UPSC. 

Also read: What’s The Fuss About Social And Emotional Learning In Educational Institutes?

On one end we have reasons for why teachers are quitting. On the other side we have a unique industry practice of Poaching Teachers. Many small institutions allege that big corporations are throwing tons of money to buy out popular teachers to increase their student base. This is a very serious problem in Kota, where the big institutions are at war to poach celebrity teachers.

A Ray of Hope for the Guru Shishya Parampara

Yet, a handful of teachers still exist who are a ray of hope for this industry. Here are some examples.

  • Anand Kumar – Founder of Super 30 batch in Patna who provided free coaching for the IIT entrance exam. 
  • Ajay Bahadur Singh – He juggled between small-time jobs like selling tea and eventually opening a NEET coaching centre, where he taught underprivileged children for free. 
  • Dr Bharat Sadan – Inspired by Anand Kumar’s super 30, he started ’50 Villagers Seva Sansthan’ in Barmer, Rajasthan where he taught for the NEET entrance exam for free. 

There are still superheroes like these teachers in this heavily monetized and commercialised teaching world. We just need to figure out how to empower teachers to improve education in the country. Because education is the first step towards bringing social change in modern India.

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