Post Pandemic Challenges In UPSC Preparation
Despite the pandemic receding and offline classes being resumed, many aspirants are still preferring online preparation
The civil services are one of the most coveted careers in India and an aspiration for millions. Civil services examination, conducted by the UPSC, is not only difficult to ace but typically requires an investment of several valuable years of one’s youth. Scores of aspirants from across the country assemble since several decades at the mecca of UPSC preparation, Old Rajendra Nagar near Karol Bagh in Delhi, every year, to prepare for the examination.
However, this tradition was brought to a halt when the Covid-19 pandemic hit the country early in the year 2020. Coaching centres were closed, classes were discontinued and many of the aspirants had to hurriedly return to their hometowns, while some remained stranded in Delhi. Even the daily newspaper, so essential for a civil services aspirant to stay abreast of the current affairs, was a source of fear of the dreaded infection. But, a way was found through the conundrum- a shift to online preparation.
Cut to 2022, what began as an exigency measure is slowly becoming the norm. Despite the pandemic receding and offline classes being resumed, many aspirants are still preferring online preparation. According to a recent report by the National IAS Association, 73 per cent civil services exam candidates prefer online coaching to normal classroom coaching. The report is based on a pan-India survey conducted by the Association among 23,160 respondents who are currently UPSC aspirants, spread across 12 major regions namely Delhi-NCR, Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Punjab and West Bengal.
The main reasons cited by the survey participants for preferring online preparation included ‘time saving’ (65 per cent) and ‘flexibility’ (55 per cent). Several candidates (42 per cent) also mentioned that it was a financially sound decision as it saves them a lot of money which one otherwise spends on boarding and lodging in Delhi. Some of the most popular Delhi-based coaching academies have also developed a significant online presence. For general studies, candidates prefer offline coaching at Vajiram and Ravi in Delhi or online coaching of platforms like Unacademy.
The most sought after optional subject teachers in both offline and online modes are Pranay Aggarwal (IAS Gurukul) for sociology preferred by 83 per cent students, Shubhra Ranjan (Shubhra Viraj) for political science preferred by 79 per cent students, K Venkanna (IMS) for maths preferred by 67 per cent students and Satinder (Simran IAS) for Punjabi literature preferred by 62 per cent students.
Working professionals also preparing for the civil services exam were particularly enthusiastic about the prospects on online preparation; with 87 per cent of them preferring it. Availability of recorded quality teaching content helps aspirants to learn and revise at their own pace. Many candidates who are staying in Karol Bagh in Delhi (63 per cent of them) also prefer online coaching aides instead of the hustle and bustle of the classroom.
However, there are others who disagree. Rakesh Singh, a resident of Rajasthan who currently lives in rented accommodation in Delhi and is studying sociology at IAS Gurukul gives us his reasons for opting for classroom mode, although the institute has online classes too. "I am a student who lacks the self discipline to attend online classes religiously. Moreover, the attention that Pranay Aggarwal Sir gives to each student has helped me identify my strengths and weaknesses”. His friend, Arpita Sharma, a resident of Bhopal, Madhya Pradesh agrees with him.
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