NEET is a common entrance exam in India for medicine and BDS courses for local and abroad students. Since the exam was introduced, it has been under severe criticism. It was introduced in 2012 and by 2013 a review petition was filed by govt. of India and with a 2:1 verdict the exam was put on hold. Then in 2016 this decision was recalled, and the court allowed to conduct the exam.
Why was this constant back and forth policy change?
Before the NEET exams, the states had their board exams as qualifying exams for their medical colleges. Apart from this, AIPMT (All India Pre Medical Test) was a qualifying exam that took place annually so students can get admission to colleges across India. A 15% of the total seats in all the colleges was reserved for students who qualified this exam and the rest of the seats for their native students. The couple of other common entrance exams apart from AIPMT were AIIMS and JIPMER medical exams for their respective institutions. Post NEET all these exams were scrapped and NEET became the only qualifying exam for medicine/BDS. This created a stir among many states especially Tamil Nadu because of various reasons.
Before we get into why Tamil Nadu had been opposing NEET for quite long, let us see some advantages of NEET.
- A common entrance exam in any field makes sure all the participants compete on a similar and common ground and the quality is not compromised; especially in a field like medicine this is quite important. Having a common exam ensures that there is no foul play in seat reservations where admissions are based purely on merit; thus, reducing money laundering in private institutions .
- NEET (just like other exams)also has reservations for the underprivileged, low income and persons with disability.15% of the seats are reserved for All India Quota seats and the rest of 85% of the seats are filled based on merit in consideration with NEET 2020 reservation for their respective state.
- Before NEET certain reputed institutions had their own qualifying exams and students had to appear in multiple exams to enter a college of their preference, now one exam score could get the student admitted to any college across the country. The exam syllabus is formulated in such a way that students cracking this exam will be able to fare well in their medical course.
So, what is Tamil Nadu’s fear?
Even before NEET, the students who passed out of Tamil Nadu medical colleges were very strong in their academics and the quality of the doctors emerging out of these institutions were incredible. This was because the facilities available and faculties in these institutions were great. The state government had put in lot of effort for years to construct medical colleges in every district of Tamil Nadu. There were also effective schemes to retain quality students by introducing a mandatory 2-year (1 year in certain states) service in rural areas before pursuing their post graduate degree. This ensured that a student appreciates the kind of service they are into; the govt. also provided a good salary to these doctors and thus attracting more such students to take up the PG course. Though court is backing the idea about PG students signing a bond to serve in rural areas before procuring their MD degree, this scheme is still under discussion. All the states are requested to come with a uniform policy on this. The state government’s pain is that they have created these institutions with many good schemes and policies into a well streamlined organization, all this with state owned money; now after the introduction of NEET the natives are losing their priority on these colleges.
Data shows that students from govt. schools getting into medical college has declined because of the nature of these exams. The student’s agony is that when each state has their own education policy why should there be a center formulated common exam to get admission in a state-owned institution.
Tamil Nadu has been against NEET since its start mainly because of the syllabus. The state has had a level playing field(Sama cheer kalvi) for classes 1 to 12; with the introduction of NEET, the students will not able to face the exams with the syllabus that they have been exposed so far. They will have to take up coaching from specialized NEET coaching centers. Though the state has set up separate coaching centers for cracking the exam, not all the students have accessibility to these centers. Further these centers are criticized for their quality and being commercialized thereby increasing the hurdles for the students.
The main concern is that NEET might make the dream of medicine impossible for the underprivileged group. This year there is already a 12.4% decrease in students applying for NEET. Though this decrease is also attributed by the spread of COVID, a significant of the rural students have given up applying for the exam. All these above factors are contributing in Tamil Nadu’s protest against NEET.
NEET 2020 exams took place across the country this September 13. This timeline faced severe opposition from students throughout the country mainly because of COVID spread and the location of testing facilities. Not all the cities had enough testing centers, and students had to travel several kilometers to take up the exam. With COVID spread on a spike throughout the country, overcrowding and social distancing were concerning most of the students. International students needed a place to stay and had to quarantine after reaching the country; all these were major hurdles. The govt. stood undeterred in not changing the dates any further because the exam had been postponed multiple times. The govt. should have been more sensitive in conducting the exams especially in such testing times. States like Bihar were amidst severe floods and students had serious difficulties in commuting; all these factors should have been considered. The govt. justified their decision by considering the no. of admit cards downloaded and assumed that most of the students are more than prepared in appearing for the exams which is not the truth in entirety. As far as this year is concerned govt. should have listened to the students voices in postponing the exam further.
On the flipside
Though the exam has been on a path of continuous resistance since its start why has the central govt. remained so adamant in conducting them?
One of the important goals is to make sure the quality of education remains high and all the students are assessed on a common level. We all would agree that students from AIIMS are regarded high; this is mainly because the difficulty level of the qualifying exams and thereby filtering meritorious candidates. The govt. of India wishes to enhance the quality of all the institutions across the country by filtering meritorious candidates; not to deny that quota reservations are also in place for underprivileged.
Experts are referring to the decrease in rural students’ enrollment in govt. colleges prevailed even before NEET. The media and politicians are just blowing this up way too much. Before NEET, the colleges in TN had admission in their medical colleges based on the board exam scores and was merit based like NEET; earlier it was board exam scores now NEET scores. Nothing has changed in terms of the yardstick.
It is to be accepted that the syllabus is an issue, but the state must take initiatives in adjustment of syllabus in their regular schools rather than trying to protest NEET. This is not an easy and simple reform; the whole education system needs a retrospect but all that must be done for the betterment of the students. Any reform will have its own drawbacks initially, but we will have to envision its prospects and weigh in its positives and act; simply protesting would not do any good.
Another important point brought in by a group of people in TN is that the reserved seats of SC/ST will be exploited if there would be less participation (meritorious) from the underprivileged group; this is an unwanted panic as those seats will be filled only by those sects of people and a student from an open category can never fit in. India should understand that just creating admission opportunities for all; alone does not push the country to the next level, but the quality of the professional also matters.
My humble opinion here is that students can accomplish more if they are tested to their fullest potential; the process of making all the exams simple does not help in strengthening them. Our students are capable of more, let us not underestimate their potential. Yes, it is understandable that all this does not happen overnight but eventually we will get there.
All said and done, the exam is now over, and we will have to await and see the results. In my opinion NEET is to be welcomed but there needs to be major changes in education system, and it would take a while before students see its entire benefits. A kind request to media is not to blow up all the negatives and create a poor impression of testing system. Let the quality of future doctors emerging from these institutions speak for country’s decision on NEET.