Pandemic crushes aspirants’ dream to become government officers

Covid-19 Education

More than 50 percent of competitive exam aspirants stopped studying, and coaching institutes are struggling to survive due to continual postponement of exams.

Mumbai: Umesh Patil dreamt of becoming a police officer and had been preparing for Maharashtra Public Service Commission’s (MPSC) Police Sub Inspector’s (PSI) exam for the last four years. When the exam got postponed for the fifth time this year, he lost the will to study.

“My mindset towards exams has completely changed now. There are only 31 posts for which lakhs of students apply,” Patil said. He explained that due to continuous postponements, the number of students appearing for exams has increased from five lakh to seven lakh. “We are still preparing for 2019 current affairs since the exams for 2019 are not yet conducted,” he said. Patil has been preparing for Group B exams which include posts of Assistant Section Officer, State Tax Inspector, Sub-Inspector. The postponed exam was originally scheduled to take place in April 2021.

Patil is not alone. Many other aspirants have lost focus and are abandoning their plans to give competitive exams.Sunil Rathod, another aspirant, has been preparing for competitive exams since 2018. “I prepared for it two to three times. We received hall tickets and the exam was cancelled one day before the scheduled date. Due to these uncertainties, my preparation is hampered,” he said. He added that he is not able to focus on his studies. “I also have pressure from my family to stop giving competitive exams. I am also coming near to the maximum age limit of these competitive exams,” he added. 

Manohar Patil of Reliable Academy explained that because of these postponements of exams students’ interest has gone down a lot. “We tried motivating them but many students are facing financial problems. Their parents have forced them to leave their preparations for competitive exams in between and asked them to start working and earn money. Fifty percent of the students have left their dream of being government officers.”

Postponement of exams has not only affected students but also the business of coaching institutes. Rahul Patil of Pioneer Academy said, “Now classes are being conducted online but it is not the same as offline classes. Students have reduced by 70 percent in online classes compared to offline classes last year. Students who went back to villages are not well acquainted with online classes, and some don’t have access to the internet or other infrastructure for online classes. Also there is load shedding in many rural areas so how can students attend online classes? These students are trying to study without help from coaching classes.”

Patil  added, “We have gone back almost two years. Whatever we decided earlier, like providing more facilities to students, we can’t give them right now. We had planned to open 10 branches in Maharashtra but we couldn’t open even one.” 

He explained that they used to create awareness campaigns about competitive exams in rural areas. “Now, overall planning is stopped due to revenue loss. We have to pay the rent even though we are working online. Almost 60 to 70 percent of competitive exams institutes are closed after the pandemic.”

Manohar Patil said, “We are continuing only with students enrolled last year. We started offline classes in December again. Offline classes were going on for four months and then again it was closed in April due to a second lockdown. We do not have any response for new batches.”  

He added that new enquiries have been reduced by 50 percent and number of students are also reduced. The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) exam scheduled on  April 27, 2021 has been postponed further; Combined Graduate Level (CGL) and many other competitive exams are also postponed. Student oriented coaching classes are working but the rest 90 percent of coaching classes are closed.

Swapnil Kharde of competitive exam centers said, “We have closed our centre completely due to Covid-19. All classes are closed and we are not running any classes online. We did get any response from students hence the centre has been completely closed for the past several months.”

Educationist Norul Alam highlighted the importance of the young generation in administration during the pandemic. He said, “Government can take these examinations following all Covid-19 protocols. It is possible for them to make necessary arrangements to conduct the exams offline. If they don’t take exams now, the number of students appearing for the exams will keep increasing and create more competition. If they can keep essential services shops open between 7 a.m. and 11 a.m., competitive exams can also be conducted within this time slot. Otherwise these students who are preparing for competitive exams for the long duration of time will be demotivated. Competitive exams will give an opportunity to the younger generation to be part of a country’s administration. During this pandemic we need young people in administration as they can tackle this situation very effectively.”