Gurukuls were elitist!

“Pehle ke teacher ki to baat hi aur thi. Woh to guru the. Unke liye shikha paisa nahin thi…”

“Hamari sanksriti mein guru ko bahot maan diya jata tha..”

Heard someone say this or said this with pride whenever the discussion involved education’s history in our country.

India has a rich history. A history that dates back to millennia and just understanding why we are the way we are would take up at least decades of dedicated study for any historian.

One of the common strands of our glorious past that are discussed in the education realm is how the gurukuls worked. The gurukuls had the system of a single knowledgeable saint who would train kids from a young age in all aspects. This guru was a venerated scholar who dedicated his life to those students and made sure that every student’s unique capacity was identified and enhanced. They also imparted immense knowledge of dharma and values.

Now we see today’s teachers and most people will nod their heads in dismay over how the standards of teachers had deteriorated. How from being a guru, today’s teachers have become the commercial service provider.

But this conversation never really takes into consideration the most important change between the two eras.

Gurukuls and gurus catered to only the mighty and wealthy. They taught the sons (and mostly only sons) of kings and noblemen. The aam janta or the common man could not even dream of getting a similar education. The knowledge was hoarded and guarded fiercely.

While cut to today’s world, education is highly democratic. An unprecedented number of children worldwide get to a school and many countries have 100% enrolment. Do you think this would have been possible with the gurukul system? Can that model provide mass education? I doubt.

But suppose we had such gurukuls where only people of certain birth can go, wouldn’t that be totally elitist? While there are a few schools that are beyond the common man’s reach today, at least the curriculum in those elite schools is similar to that in local schools. the high-end private school students study Math, Science, and languages and so do the underprivileged. The elite’s children no more have access to some prized source of knowledge that the locals are denied.  

And who makes that possible? The commercially driven teacher. So next time before we venerate and idolize the past and drum down the present, let us please take into consideration all kinds of aspects that our life has changed in. And let us please appreciate our teachers who work so very hard. Not all of them are as knowledgeable as the gurus were. But had it not been for them, you would not be reading and writing at all. Your birth would have decided your fate. Today’s so-called commercial teacher gives you a chance to shape your fate. Let us respect it.

Well, what are your views on Gurukul v/s the google era of education? Can we / should we switch to the older one?

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