NEET: A way for­ward or ahead of time?


Of the 3,534 stu­dents ad­mit­ted to var­i­ous gov­ern­ment med­i­cal col­leges in the cur­rent aca­demic year in Tamil Nadu, 1,224 (34 per cent) be­longed to the Central Board of Sec­ondary Ed­u­ca­tion (CBSE). The re­main­ing two-thirds (66 per cent) came from schools un­der the Tamil Nadu state board, reg­is­ter­ing a sharp de­cline from the pre­vi­ous year, when around 99 per cent stu­dents from the state board were given ad­mis­sion in med­i­cal col­leges.

This dip is at­trib­uted to the Na­tional El­i­gi­bil­ity and En­trance Test (NEET), a cen­tralised com­mon med­i­cal en­trance exam, which was con­ducted for the first time in Tamil Nadu along with other states this year. Till last year, the stu­dents were given ad­mis­sion to gov­ern­ment med­i­cal col­leges purely on the (ba­sis of) marks ob­tained by them in Class 12 ex­ams. Pri­vate col­leges ad­mit­ted stu­dents who could af­ford steep fees, even if they failed to make it on merit.

S Anitha, a 17-year-old girl who com­mit­ted sui­cide after fail­ing to se­cure ad­mis­sion, was con­sid­ered a mer­i­to­ri­ous stu­dent in school. Anitha had se­cured 1,176 marks out of 1,200 in Class 12. But her score in NEET was 86 out of 720. She would have got ad­mis­sion into a med­i­cal col­lege, had NEET not been im­ple­mented in the state fol­low­ing the di­rec­tions of the Supreme Court.

Though jury is still out on the in­tended out­comes of NEET, in­clud­ing curb­ing cor­rupt prac­tices in pri­vate med­i­cal col­leges and bring­ing med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion on par, stu­dents and po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Tamil Nadu have not stopped protest­ing.

Ad­van­tage CBSE

Data from Tamil Nadu gov­ern­ment would per­haps in­di­cate that NEET favours CBSE stu­dents. Of the 88,431 stu­dents who ap­peared for the exam from Tamil Nadu, around 4,675 be­longed to 580 CBSE schools in Tamil Nadu. Th­ese CBSE stu­dents could bag at least 1,224 med­i­cal seats. In other words, they took ev­ery third seat avail­able in the gov­ern­ment med­i­cal col­leges.

The per­cep­tion is that NEET is largely based on CBSE cur­ricu­lum, even as CBSE-af­fil­i­ated schools (19,316) are only a frac­tion of the to­tal (1,516,865) schools in the coun­try.

Of the 19,316 CBSE schools across the coun­try, 1,118 are Kendriya Vidyalayas (Central Schools). The oth­ers in­clude 2,734 gov­ern­ment aided, 590 Jawa­har Navo­daya Vidyalayas, 14 Central Ti­betan Schools. Th­ese schools are con­sid­ered to be pre­mier be­cause of qual­ity of ed­u­ca­tion and their pres­ence in the ur­ban ar­eas.

“The NEET exam is based on core cur­ricu­lum of the CBSE and other states board. But still, there is a wide vari­a­tion among the cur­ricu­lums of var­i­ous state boards and also the CBSE. Un­less the state boards align their cur­ricu­lum to the na­tional cur­ricu­lum, stu­dents from other school boards would keep feel­ing that they are at a dis­ad­van­tage. The ef­forts should be made to re­move this psy­che bar­ri­ers,” says for­mer CBSE chair­man Ashok Gan­guly, who in the past has made ef­forts to make com­mon cur­ricu­lum for the sci­ence sub­jects through­out the coun­try.

“Some­body should also place the ground sit­u­a­tion be­fore the Supreme Court,” Gan­guly said. It was the apex court’s de­ci­sion which cleared the way for im­ple­men­ta­tion of NEET across the coun­try. While Tamil Nadu tried to de­lay the process through an or­di­nance, it was struck down by the SC.

An of­fi­cial in the Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance (NDA) gov­ern­ment said that de­sign­ing a com­mon course cur­ricu­lum, course trans­ac­tions and eval­u­a­tion prac­tices in the coun­try was eas­ier said than done. “Our sys­tem is unique and we have 30 dif­fer­ent state gov­ern­ments. Any ef­fort to make com­mon cur­ricu­lum would be seen as an at­tempt by the Centre to in­fringe on the rights of the state. It is a call which the po­lit­i­cal par­ties and the Central lead­er­ship will have to take,” he said.

Ur­ban-ru­ral di­vide

Data also sug­gest that of the 2,314 state board stu­dents who got ad­mis­sions in Tamil Nadu med­i­cal col­leges, 2,309 were from pri­vate schools whereas 0.14 per cent stud­ied in gov­ern­ment schools. Add to that the fact that stu­dents in ur­ban cities at­tend pri­vate schools in much larger num­bers than in ru­ral ar­eas.

Crit­ics be­lieve that this would fur­ther widen the di­vide be­tween the ur­ban and ru­ral stu­dents in gov­ern­ment med­i­cal col­leges, forc­ing many to go for the mush­room­ing coach­ing in­dus­try.

“While the NEET will ben­e­fit by and large, coach­ing in­sti­tutes will try to cash in on this sit­u­a­tion,” ad­mits Girid­har Gyani, di­rec­tor of As­so­ci­a­tion of Health­care Providers.

Tamil Nadu gov­ern­ment has taken note of this and has de­cided to set up spe­cial coach­ing cen­tres in the state. Min­is­ter for School Ed­u­ca­tion K A Sen­got­taiyan said the gov­ern­ment would open 412 coach­ing cen­tres to train stu­dents for NEET. “The teach­ing qual­ity in schools will be im­proved and stu­dents will be coached to the ex­tent that there will be no more deaths ow­ing to NEET, he said adding that spe­cial re­source per­sons would be brought in from Ra­jasthan, Delhi and Andhra Pradesh dur­ing the week­end to coach stu­dents through video-con­fer­enc­ing. This would help stu­dents ac­cess ses­sions over Skype,” the min­is­ter said.

The state gov­ern­ment also has plans of set­ting up smart class­rooms at a cost of ~60 crore in schools across the state.

Roll-out of NEET

But there are many who be­lieve that NEET is the only way for­ward, as it ends cor­rup­tion in pri­vate med­i­cal col­leges and stu­dents don’t have to ap­pear for mul­ti­ple en­trance ex­ams.

“NEET is only do­ing stu­dents good, as it has re­duced paid seats in med­i­cal ed­u­ca­tion. Ear­lier, stu­dents were book­ing their med­i­cal seats two or three years in ad­vance. NEET has ren­dered it im­pos­si­ble,” Gul­shan Garg, chair­man of Sankalp Char­i­ta­ble Trust, said.

How­ever, the roll-out of NEET has been far from smooth.


Loy­ola Col­lege stu­dents dur­ing their protest against NEET, ear­lier this month, in Chen­nai

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