Lockdown effect? NEET coaching in Chennai faces test as enrolment falls by 30 per cent

Chennai’s NEET coaching industry experienced a 30-60% contraction this year, according to insiders, compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Published: 17th February 2022 05:51 AM  |   Last Updated: 17th February 2022 11:09 AM   |  A+A-

Candidates queuing up for NEET counselling. Image used for representational purpose. (File photo| Radhakrishnan, EPS)

Candidates queuing up for NEET counselling. Image used for representational purpose. (File photo| Radhakrishnan, EPS)

Express News Service

CHENNAI: Chennai’s NEET coaching industry experienced a 30-60% contraction this year, according to insiders, compared to pre-pandemic levels. The worst affected are the small and medium-level players.

They were expecting some respite after a complete lockdown in 2020 and sluggish business in 2021, but admission and revenue levels are yet to pick up, about a dozen of them told TNIE.

The low admission rates could be linked to frequent lockdowns, parents’ hesitation to pay fees, uncertainty and delay in conducting NEET last year, popularity of edtech firms, and the ongoing controversy related to Tamil Nadu seeking an exemption from the exam, industry experts said.

“Though we switched to a digital format, our admissions fell by 25-30 per cent this year. Students’ morale and interest took a hit as the medical entrance exam was postponed multiple times and results were delayed,” said a faculty at a national-level NEET coaching centre in Chennai.

Coaching centres were hit hard during the lockdown, as they had to pay rent and salaries, besides spending on digitisation for online classes, said managers of these units.

Many small and medium-level coaching centres were forced to shut or scale down operations. 

‘Big coaching centres can better survive the pandemic’

“Before the pandemic, I used to run five NEET coaching centres across the State, but now, I have only one in Chennai, from which we manage online classes for other centres,” said Christopher Jebaraj, managing director, Appolo Academy.

“Only big players, who have a pan-India presence and sufficient savings, could tide over these difficult times by spending heavily on advertisements, state-of-the-art virtual theoretical and practical classes, and by lowering their fees,” said Rajesh Rajasekaran, an alumnus of IIT Madras who runs Pioneer Academy.

Before the pandemic, the academy ran classes for three batches (60 students in each) at a time, but now has only one.

“Our operating costs have reduced since we provide the same materials to all students online. So, we have decreased our course fee to attract more students. This was needed since we face tough competition from edtech startups,” said K Parameswaran, a faculty at a leading National Eligibility cum Entrance Test coaching centre.

Educational consultants and academicians feel the ongoing controversy regarding Tamil Nadu seeking exemption from NEET has also created confusion among students.

“It has created a dilemma in the minds of students and affected their preparation,” said former vice-chancellor of Anna University, E Balagurusamy.

“Many students and parents are opting to wait and watch, at least this year, as they feel their money would go waste if the State gets exemption from NEET,” said education consultant Jayaprakash Gandhi.

According to the AK Rajan committee, formed by the State government to study the impact of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, the NEET coaching industry is worth RS 5,750 crore.



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