New Delhi: After the introduction of the National Eligibility and Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical colleges, which has seen staunch opposition from Tamil Nadu, only two students from state government schools have cleared the test this year to be admitted to the state’s 22 government medical colleges. Last year, 30 students from government schools made it into state-run medical colleges, Indian Express reported.
According to the newspapers, 109 students from Namakkal, a district with among the highest-scoring students in the state board exams, have been able to get into government medical colleges this year. Last year, this number was 957.
Before NEET was imposed, several experts had expressed apprehensions that the uniform test across the country favoured those who had studied the Central Board of Secondary Education syllabus rather than those who had gone through the state boards, and was unfair when the primary education system was uneven and varied. The data from Tamil Nadu on those who cleared the NEET this year, the Indian Express report says, only adds to those questions.
Also read: Why Tamil Nadu Hates NEET
The number of students from urban centres getting into medical colleges has gone up, while the number of students admitted from other areas, including districts where the number of first-generation learners is high like Perambalur, has decreased, the Indian Express report says.
Speaking to the Indian Express, state health secretary J. Radhakrishnan said the data show the social cost of implementing NEET in Tamil Nadu is large. In the Supreme Court, the state had asked for a year’s extension before the exam was brought in. “The state prefers admissions based on Class 12 marks. This is to have a level-playing field, considering various social systems and inequalities, and that students are deprived of coaching centres in rural areas and many have no access to any kind of training facilities besides schools,” he told the newspaper.
On September 1, S. Anitha, a 17-year-old Dalit student from Tamil Nadu who was one of the petitioners against NEET in the Supreme Court, committed suicide after not being able to clear the exam. She had scored 98% in her Class 12 exams, but scored 86 marks out of 720 in the NEET (the minimum is 108). Protests against the exam erupted in the state after her death.
Writing in The Wire about the dangers of imposing NEET in Tamil Nadu, Karthick Ram Manoharan said:
Tamil Nadu has one of the highest state gross enrolment ratios (GER) in the country, almost double the national average. The GER of girl students is 42.7% against 22.7% nationally. It had almost 100% retention up to elementary school in 2012, while about 45% of all students who join school at the primary level in the state manage to get admitted in colleges. While there is consensus among education activists in Tamil Nadu that almost all CBSE students will make it to college thanks to their social capital, most students who enrol for college education in Tamil Nadu, including for the MBBS programmes, are from the state board curriculum. So the competition tends to be sharp, with only those with an exceptional scorecard being eligible to study medicine.
Before NEET, and out of the ~2,500 government college seats in Tamil Nadu, 69% were reserved for BC, MBC and SC/ST students. However, there was very little – if any – difference in the admission cutoffs. For example, for entrance to the prestigious Madras Medical College in 2014, the cutoff for OC students was 199.5; 199.25 for BC; 198.75 for MBC and 196.75 for SC/ST students. This rubbishes complaints that these students “aren’t good enough”. A significant number of students from the marginalised sections of society scored over 98% to be enrolled under the open category. Such a system ensured fair representation and was not lax in maintaining high standards.
The introduction of NEET has only managed to lower the bar – by making it more favourable to those students with a CBSE background.