India has a long history of guru-shishya relationships, how have edtech startups revived this practice

India has a long history of guru-shishya relationships, how have edtech startups revived this practice

Guru-shishya (teacher-student) relationships have a long history in India, dating back to ancient times. The guru-shishya relationship is based on the idea of a mentor or teacher (guru) imparting knowledge and guidance to a student, who is considered to be the guru’s “shishya” or disciple.  

This traditional form of education emphasises the personal connection and mentorship between the guru and the shishya and is considered an important part of India’s cultural heritage.

Even today, the concept of guru-shishya has survived despite all the modernising mechanisms. Especially if we look at how edtech startups are trying to incorporate the elements of the guru-shishya relationship into their educational platforms and services.

Personalised learning

For instance, in the guru-shishya model, the teacher or mentor provided individual instruction and guidance to each student, taking into account their unique strengths, abilities, and learning needs.

This was done to help students feel more engaged and motivated in their studies and to allow them to progress at their own pace.

If we look at the focus of the edtech market today, most companies are using adaptive learning algorithms, and personalised learning plans to provide each student with a customised learning experience that is tailored to their individual needs, interests, and learning style.

Edtech in India is on the path of conquering personalised learning and learner-centric teaching. The practice of delivering personalised learning experiences for every student is rather a traditional approach to teaching and learning rooted in the guru-shishya model. 


Another facet that has been revived from this traditional approach is the element of mentorship. 

Historically, in the guru-shishya model, the teacher was not just a source of knowledge but also a mentor and guide who helped the student develop their skills and abilities and navigate the challenges and opportunities of their personal and professional lives. It was the duty of a guru to make students feel supported and encouraged as they learn. 

If we look closely at the modern mechanisms of education, there is a massive use of tutoring (both online and offline) and mentoring services to connect students with experienced teachers or mentors who can provide personalised instruction and support. 

Edtechs today are also using AI-powered learning assistants and chatbots to provide students with instant feedback and answers to their questions and to help them stay on track with their studies. 

Overall, the focus of these companies is aimed at providing students with the support and guidance they need to develop into well-rounded and confident learners.

Learning by doing

Another interesting facet of the guru-shishya model that has been revived by edtech startups today is the practice of learning by doing. 

In ancient times,  learning was not just about memorising facts and figures but also about acquiring practical skills and expertise through hands-on experience and experimentation. The idea was to allow students to develop a deeper understanding of the subject matter and to apply their knowledge in real-world contexts.

This approach of ‘learning by doing’ has been adopted by many edtech companies. They emphasise hands-on, experiential learning over traditional methods such as lectures and textbooks.

For example, ed-techs today use interactive and immersive technologies such as virtual reality (VR) and augmented reality (AR) to provide students with interactive, hands-on learning experiences that engage their senses and challenge them to apply their knowledge in realistic situations. 

It is safe to say that the guru-shishya tradition has been the backbone of many generations in the past and continues to inspire contemporary approaches to teaching and learning. 

The institutionalisation of education has taken away the role of the traditional gurus and, therefore, a part of the Gurukul system. But the elements of the model still exist and are getting revived with technology. 

We can say, edtech startups are rather building the modern-day guru-shishya models that are yet to find their balance in the constant renegotiation between tradition and modernity.



Views expressed above are the author’s own.


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