NEET adversely impacts government school students: Tamil Nadu panel report
The Tamil Nadu government on Monday finally made the justice A K Rajan committee report on the impact of NEET on medical admission in the state public, which highlighted that if the centralised NEET continues for medical college admission, Tamil Nadu may go back to the pre-independence days of barefoot doctors.
Much of the reports’ findings cement the state’s arguments against the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), which the state government feels favours the privileged, and is against social justice. NEET became a reality in the state in 2017, following a Supreme Court order asking Tamil Nadu to follow the rest of the country. Data from the report shows that the state board students achieved the majority seats in the pre-NEET period, and compared to English medium students, the Tamil medium students obtained at least some share. “Similarly, the government students achieved a small number of seats. However, in the post-NEET period, that little share, too, was lost, resulting in further disproportionate seat sharing,” the report found.
The seat shares for CBSE students increased ‘exponentially’, while English medium students grew to become the largest seat holders in the post-NEET period from the status of second largest in the pre-NEET era, the report stated.
The reports also showed that the average of government school students enrolled in MBBS courses went from 14.44% in the pre-NEET period to a negligible 1.7% in 2020- 21 post-NEET. The report finds a trend where post-NEET, the student size fell by 18.5% and 14.1% in government-aided schools, concurring that they would have migrated to the CBSE to have an edge in the exam.
The report criticised the single window exam system for the entire country stating that it promotes coaching rather than learning, which puts repeaters in an advantageous position. “The coaching Centres make the students as ‘marks scoring machines’, as learning is discouraged in favour of coaching,” the report said. NEET is successful mainly for the repeaters (71 per cent in 2021), and those students who have gone through coaching (99% in 2020), data from the report shows. The report shows also said that Tamil-medium students getting into government and private medical colleges have fallen drastically. The percentage of Tamil-medium students who got into medical colleges came down to 1.6% in 2017 from 19.79% in 2010. In contrast, the number of students from English-medium, who secured admission in medical colleges, went up to 98.41% in 2017 from 80% in 2010.
The previous AIADMK regime’s bid to get an exemption – similar to what the DMK has done now bypassing a Bill – was unsuccessful as the President didn’t give assent to the legislation, which was originally passed as parliamentary law. So, in 2020, the AIADMK introduced a 7.5% internal reservation for government school students to be admitted to medical colleges. “Until the 7.5% reservation was introduced, in 2020-21, the government students were the worst affected lot by the NEET,” the report said.
The DMK, after coming to power in May, with one of its poll promises being the scrapping of NEET, formed the justice AK Rajan committee comprising nine members, including the state Health Secretary, Director of Medical Education. The committee had worked for a month to examine the impact of NEET on social and economically backward students. Three medical students in Tamil Nadu died by suicide out of fear just last week that they cannot clear NEET which was held last on September 12. It takes a toll since NEET got introduced in 2017 to more than 14 students’ deaths.
Their 165-page report concludes that if NEET continues for a few more years, the healthcare system of Tamil Nadu will be “very badly affected”. The committee, which received more than 86,000 comments from stakeholders, including political parties, non-political organisations, NGOs, educationists, public authorities, and social organisations, with a majority who were against the conduct of NEET.
It warns that there may not be enough doctors posted at the various Primary Health Centres and in Government Hospitals. “Further, the rural and urban poor may not be able to join the medical courses,” the report states. “Ultimately, Tamil Nadu may go back to pre-independence days, wherein small towns and in villages only ‘bare-foot’ doctors catering for the needs were available. Tamil Nadu as a state would go down in the rank among States, in the Medical and Healthcare system.”
The report has come up with seven recommendations for the state. It includes eliminating NEET through legal and legislative procedures. Medical education comes under the state list of the constitution, whereas standards to higher education come under the union list in which the state may not have powers over legislation.
Alternatively, it suggests the state pass a bill that requires the assent of the President and to use class 12 board exam marks as sole criteria for admission--both of which is what the state did a week ago in the assembly. “This will ensure social justice and protect all vulnerable student communities from being discriminated against in admission to medical education programmes,” the report states.
The report also makes a crucial recommendation for the reformation of school education so that learning is fostered through changes in curriculum, teaching methods to assessment-based board examination. This would empower students with subject knowledge, skills such as reasoning, decision making, and social disposition. “Especially, the rote form of learning assessment that leads to coaching shall be eliminated and that the acquired knowledge and skills shall be focussed,” the report said.