KOCHI: Overcrowded and saturated classrooms seem like an abnormal past and unlikely future. The pandemic has restructured education, specifically affecting entrance and recruitment exam coaching centres where thousands of aspirants competed with each other every year. With the shift to online classes, rigorous discipline and training, a must-have for competitive examinations, are no longer viable. This has also raised questions on the worth of the exorbitant fees collected. The postponement of such examinations have provided more time for the applicants to study but the delay has caused a dip in the enrollment of new admissions, even during the peak season. While larger coaching centres are trying to wade through the crisis, smaller centres are in stormy seas.
Network issues obstruct effective teaching, as per several coaching centres in Kochi. “Two weeks ago, we decided to make the transition to online classes but the results were unsatisfactory. The rain plays spoilsport -- signal is disrupt ing sessions. Also, as the online classes are recorded, several students take the same for granted and do not attend them live. This can hamper their results,” said a staffer with Radiant Study Centre, Palarivattom, that offers coaching for JEE and NEET.
Considering the quality of such classes, are students required to pay the full amount? “Usually, we do not take the full consolidated amount in one go. Only a handful of students have paid the first instalment — the other cite lack of regular household income. This, combined with a decrease in new students owing to the delayed exams and the pandemic, has resulted in heavy losses for us. We are unable to pay rent and for infrastructure,” the staffer added. She said the older teachers find it difficult to transition to the online mode of teaching.
At Miracle PSC Coaching Centre in Kochi, the switch to a suitable video platform turned out to be unsuccessful owing to network fluctuations. Therefore, classes are conducted via an audio platform on the Telegram app. Roshan K S, managing director of the centre, said that classes are being conducted for free.
“Payment is taken for rigorous and structured teaching which isn’t possible for us right now. Therefore, it was only right to not ask the students for money. There are several students that we’ve prepared well over the past few months. Rather than worrying about our loss, we would like to retain the batch and help them. Currently, we are in talks with a few IT companies for a convenient video platform,” he said.
Fewer takers for IELTS
Biju M, owner of Casper Academy of Excellence in Vytilla that focuses on IELTS, PTA and TOEFL, said that coaching centres in Kochi are badly affected. “Kochi is the hub of IELTS coaching centres. We have started online classes but many students are unwilling to come forward as their parents are worried about studying abroad,” he said.
Smooth transition for some
Unlike most coaching centres, for the Delhi-based ALS IAS, the transition to online classes has been smooth. Classes are usually conducted via VSAT technology wherein the faculty would teach from Delhi, while the two-way interactive sessions would be accessible via virtual technology to around 75 centres in India. Due to the pandemic, students have been attending these classes via the ALS app from their homes April 18 onwards.
“As a result, we didn’t have a massive problem. Also, most civil service aspirants are self-driven and do not require monitoring as long as the materials are available to them. We have retained our original fee -- there wasn’t a reason to decrease the amount as we have provided all the essential texts to their houses and we make sure that everyone can access them without interruption and as per convenience. We have received positive feedback for the same. However, we did have a Covid offer during the lockdown,” said Aswathy P Krishnan, centre manager at Kochi.All centres agreed unanimously that the concept of social distancing was impractical in coaching academies and they hope to resume physical classes in five months.
● Network issues obstruct effective teaching, as per several coaching centres in the city.
● Older teachers find it difficult to transition to the online mode of teachings.
The postponement of exams has caused a dip in the enrolment of new admissions, even during the peak season. While larger coaching centres are trying to wade through the crisis, smaller centres are in stormy seas.