Lockdown Pushes Students, Coaching Institutes Into Limbo

"No one has any idea how long it would take to resume the classes as it used to be before the lockdown," a faculty member at the Allen Career institute in Jaipur, told The Wire.

Jaipur: After Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced a national lockdown of 21 days to curb the spread of the coronavirus, coaching institutes across the country shut their operations.

As per the usual schedule of most institutes, the syllabus of students appearing for competitive examinations this year has been completed. However, the new batches appearing for next year’s examinations have been suspended due to the lockdown.

The institutes may have been shut, but they are still trying to maintain engagement with students at their own levels, so as to ensure that there is no interruption in their studies.

“No one has any idea how long it would take to resume the classes as it used to be before the lockdown, but the students can’t afford to miss out on their classes,” Naveen Menaria, faculty at the Allen Career institute in Jaipur, told The Wire.

Also read: Coronavirus: But What About the Competitive Exams?

Institutes, at this time, are focussed on ensuring that students appearing for examinations this year are not affected by the lockdown.

“We have formed WhatsApp groups for every batch and we used it to handle each and every doubt that students encounter while studying at home,” said Neha Joshi, a faculty at the Sri Chaitanya Institute in Hyderabad. “We are also available on voice calls and video calls for the students.”

Apart from this, the teachers are also asked to prepare daily practice papers for the students, to be sent over to them via e-mail or other platforms.

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A screenshot of academic queries being answered over text messages.

“We send question papers through Google drive and also mention a tentative date of discussion. Students then connect us over a web meeting to discuss the paper,” said Vineet Goyal, a faculty member at FIIT JEE in Mumbai.

Institutes in Kota are creating test papers to be answered in real-time.

“There is no point of taking tests if students don’t do it in one sitting and in the prescribed time limit,” Sonal Rajora, faculty at Allen career institute in Kota told The Wire. “So, we are forming test papers that have a set timer to answer each question.”

Students moving from class 11 to class 12 this year, are missing out on classes that were supposed to commence from the last week of March.

Even new admissions for class 11 happen during March, after the coaching institutes conduct their own entrance tests. However, this time, neither the students are approaching institutes for admission nor are the institutes in any position to conduct any entrance tests.

Speaking to The Wire, Ashish Gupta, director at Pooja Bansal Classes in Jaipur said, “New admissions are not taking place and I don’t think any institute is even expecting them to happen. Everyone is concerned about catering to the existing students at this point, i.e. those in Class 12 who would be appearing as soon as new dates for exams are announced and the students who had studied with us in class 11 and are now moving to class 12.”

Some of the institutes have begun taking online classes. “We have started taking online classes for all our four batches through Cisco WebEx application since Saturday,” said Gupta.

At Allen Career institute in Jaipur, regular online classes are taking place since the shutdown.

Also read: ‘Anxiety, Homophobia, Stress’: Students on Mental Health Concerns During Lockdown

A screenshot of academic queries being answered over text messages.

“Allen has its own application called Batch Progress Monitoring System (BPMS) where almost every student of the institute is registered. The faculties record their lectures and upload them on this application and the students are given 5-6 hours to view them,” Pankaj Kumar Singh, faculty at Allen Career institute in Jaipur, told The Wire.

He says that the teachers record their lectures at their homes on phone and upload it onto the cloud. He also added that internet connectivity is a big challenge when it comes to uploading such large files.

While big institutes like Allen are moving forward using a system of online classes, many small institutes are unable to keep up with the abrupt change in the teaching technique.

“We have asked students to collect question papers for practice from the institute but since there is a restriction on movement, students cannot get them,” Raghav Vyas, a faculty member at Plus Point coaching institute in Jaipur told The Wire. “We are handling queries from students over the phone but there are no online classes happening from our institute’s side.”

He also added that the investment required to set up an online platform is not much but only requires careful planning.