The Supreme Court’s decision to replace state-level and other entrance tests for medical and dental courses with the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) has aspirants in the city moving from many local coaching classes to tutorials that are part of national chains.
The apex court, in April, had recalled its July 2013 decision scrapping NEET, paving way for the national level entrance test. While the court allowed Maharashtra to fill seats in government-run medical and dental colleges through its Common Entrance Test (CET), next year onwards all the medical and dental admissions in the state will be done through NEET, pending SC’s final decision on the matter. Admissions for other health science courses will continue to take place on the basis of CET scores.
City-based classes reported a dip in number of medical aspirants joining them this year, but Mumbai branches of national-level classes, many of which are headquartered in Kota, the hub of coaching classes, have witnessed a surge in enrolments. The perception of national-level classes being better equipped to prepare aspirants for NEET seems to be the reason for the trend. Although the local classes have been preparing students for All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), which preceded NEET, in addition to preparing them for CET, the students seem to prefer the more established classes, which focus more on the national-level tests.
Gopichand Chate, president of Chate Group of Education, which runs medical entrance classes in various parts of the state including Mumbai, said that fewer students enrolled in his classes this year. “After SC decision, the aspirants moving to Kota-based coaching institutes has been the major trend,” he said, adding that the classes offer both CET and NEET preparatory courses, while exhorting students to opt for national-level examination instead of just preparing foe the state-level exam.
While Chate believes that the overall number of medical aspirants in the city hasn’t changed, Subhash Joshi, who runs Science Parivar Coaching Classes in Borivli, suggests that the number has gone down. “The enrolment in our classes has decreased by 15-20%. Fewer city students are aspiring are aspiring for medicine, as NEET is a much more exhaustive and tougher than CET,” he said.
Joshi has asked the government to replace the state education board’s science and maths textbooks with National Council of Education Research and Training (NCERT) books, in order to provide a level-playing field to students from Maharashtra. “Most of the questions in NEET are derived from NCERT curriculum,” he said.
The NEET decision has been a boon for bigger player in the coaching industry. This year, Delhi-based Aakash Tutorials have expanded into southern India with over 20 new branches. Kota-based Rao Coaching Classes saw 50-60% jump in enrolments in Mumbai and Pune. The city-based Mahesh Tutorials, which has branches in several states, has also witnessed 10-15% growth in its medical section.
“Till recently, the local private tutors had dominated the medical coaching market. But with the introduction of NEET, the students now prefer structured high level coaching. It isn’t easy for local-level classes to teach for national-level examination,” said Vinay Kumar, managing director, Rao Classes.
Around 1200 students have enrolled in Rao this year, twice as much as last year’s 600. However, the figure includes repeaters as well. The demand for study material and test papers has also increased, said Kumar.
Suresh Shetty, academic head (science), Mahesh Tutorials, said, “Students put faith in us, as they know that we have national-level expertise.”
But Mumbai-based tutorials denied that they had lost students. “Engineering aspirants did move to big classes after Joint Entrance Examination replaced the CET for engineering, but I have not seen such a trend post-NEET. On the contrary, local classes continue to dominate the market. It’s the big players who got fewer enrolments, as they couldn’t advertise their integrated courses due to our petition against it in Bombay High Court,” said Narendra Bhambwani, vice president, Maharashtra Coaching Classes Owners Association.