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Saving students and parents

This year the deemed universities are demanding up to Rs 60 lakh as tuition fees for popular courses. There is an immediate need for the Tamil Nadu government to establish a Fee Structure Authority to prescribe the fee structure and to monitor malpractices in fee collection.

Saving students and parents

One of the major benefits of NEET is to save the aspirants for medical education from the exorbitant capitation fees charged by private players ranging from Rs 60 lakh to 
Rs 80 lakh per seat for MBBS, and Rs 30 to 40 lakh for BDS and a few crores for PG.

In Tamil Nadu alone about Rs 3000 crore is funnelled into the pockets of medical institutions in the form of cash and black money. 

No other academic issue has raised as much controversy in Tamil Nadu as the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) for admission to medical courses. Until last year admission to medical and dental courses were based on the “cut-off” marks in the final higher secondary examination.

The Supreme Court of India in 2016 mandated the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), to be conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), Delhi, for admission. Over 11 lakh MBBS and BDS aspirants, including nearly 85,000 students from Tamil Nadu, appeared for the NEET at over 1900 centres across the country. NEET was conducted in 10 languages – English, Hindi, Tamil, Telugu, Marathi, Bengali, Assamese, Gujarati, Kannada and Odiya.

The responsibility of the CBSE is limited to the conduct of the entrance examination, declaration of result and providing All India Rank to the Counseling Authorities and Admitting Institutions. NEET is applicable for admissions to (a) All India quota seats, (b) State government quota seats where the state government concerned so opts and (c) Private/Management/NRI quota seats in all private medical and dental colleges or any private or deemed university. Only the three Centrally administered medical institutions, All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS), New Delhi, Jawaharlal Institute of Post-Graduate Medical Education and Research (JIPMER), Puducherry, and Government Medical College and Hospital, Chandigarh, are exempt from NEET. They will have their own entrance test.


TN bills unlikely to get Presidential assent

Opposing the mandated NEET, the Tamil Nadu legislature passed two bills seeking to retain its present admission system based on marks obtained by students in their higher secondary school examination. The bills have not received the President’s assent and is unlikely. The Tamil Nadu government has been claiming that the Presidential assent will come, though the Union Minister for Education has categorically ruled out any such possibility. This has unnecessarily confused the students and parents.

The state government argues that NEET would be traumatic for children, as it would be based on a syllabus different from the one taught in schools. The fear is that NEET would be insurmountable for students from rural areas. They contend that urban students, especially those from streams such as the CBSE, would dominate admissions under NEET. The fallacy of this argument is illustrated by available data.

According to statistics, during the eight-year period from 2009-10 to 2016-17, of the total of 29,225 admissions, only 210 students from government schools have been admitted to medical colleges. During the same period only 65 students from government schools have been placed in private medical colleges against 6132 admissions. Even students with very high cut-off marks in the State Board may not do well in the NEET due to lack of knowledge on fundamentals.

One of the major benefits of NEET is to save the aspirants for medical education from the exorbitant capitation fees charged by private players ranging from Rs 60 lakh to Rs 80 lakh per seat for MBBS and Rs 30 to 40 lakh for BDS and a few crores for PG.

In Tamil Nadu there are 21 government medical colleges with an intake capacity of 2750 of which 412 (15 per cent) was for All India Quota and 2318 (85 per cent) for the state quota. There are 23 private medical colleges with 3750 seats. There is one government dental college with 100 seats of which 15 is for all India quota. Private dental colleges account for 1310 seats with no all India quota. On a rough estimate, in Tamil Nadu alone about Rs 3000 crore is funneled into the pockets of medical institutions in the form of cash and black money. At the all India level there are approximately 63,835 medical seats, which are available for aspirants who clear the NEET exam in 2017.


Schools need to lay emphasis on fundamentals

Another benefit from NEET is the attitudinal change towards higher secondary examinations. There is an erroneous view that only those who study under CBSE will be able to perform well in NEET, implying that the Tamil Nadu State Board syllabus is inferior.  In fact, there is no substantial difference between the two. The serious lacuna is in the teaching processes in most state board schools. They generally skip the eleventh class syllabus. For the final examination the students are encouraged to memorise the answers to a selected set of questions in the question banks. Thus the students are deprived of the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of the subjects. Without this fundamental knowledge it will be impossible to perform well in NEET. With the introduction of NEET, the students and the teachers are moving towards acquiring this fundamental knowledge.  Once the schools emphasise the importance of fundamentals, there will be no difference between the rural and urban students as also between the CBSE and state board students.

There is also a false propaganda that the NEET will take away the various reservations now available. The NEET does not interfere in any way with the reservation system. Special provisions for reservation of any category are not the subject matter of the NEET nor are the rights of minority in any manner affected by NEET.

There are apprehensions that the NEET will lead to proliferation of coaching centres. These centres will prosper as long as there is a sense of inadequacy among students. If schools emphasise the fundamentals, confident students will not seek the help of coaching centres.


CBSC guidelines and blind enforcement

The NEET examination was held on 7 May 2017. Unfortunately the manner in which it was conducted created high decibel controversies about the security checks at the examination centres. The anti-cheating guidelines of CBSE for the NEET examination have left a whole bunch of students humiliated and parents fuming. While the intent behind the strict dress code is understandable, the manner in which it was enforced at several exam centres belies all reason. Fraudulent practices in any exam are obviously to be prevented. But regressive action such as banning essential items and overzealous enforcement of rules to the point of insensitivity is not the solution. This gave yet another opportunity for those opposed to NEET to decry NEET.  The CBSE should explore options for online examinations with adequate security features to avoid the hiccups.

The results of this year’s NEET will indicate the validity of the various apprehensions. The CBSE board is due to publish the results on 8 June. A merit list will be prepared for admission on the basis of marks obtained by the students. CBSE will release the NEET cutoff along with the result. The cut-off marks will be released categorywise.

The Tamil Nadu Government, which was opposing NEET for populist reasons, is coming around to recognise the inevitability of the NEET and urging that the schools should redesign their curricula and teaching methods appropriate to NEET requirements. Of course there will be residual, vociferous resistance to NEET mostly from the owners of private medical and dental institutions.

The intention to curb the collection of exorbitant capitation fees through the NEET is sought to be defeated through ingenuous ways.

Colleges that demanded crores as donation in cash are now coming up with other methods like giving a band of fees that they could charge. For instance, in PG courses the students who can pay in cash would be given a better stream.

In Maharashtra unpopular courses like anatomy, physiology, biochemistry and microbiology would be charged at Rs 9.6 lakh as decided by the state’s Fee Regulation Authority. In the book of accounts, only the lower fee will be reflected; the rest would be taken in cash. In Gujarat private medical colleges charge fees as high as Rs 33 lakh for orthopedics and Rs 25 lakh for medicine and surgery branches.  While the fee for non-clinical branches like microbiology and physiology is as low as Rs 75,000, the fee for all the clinical branches is nothing less than Rs 20 lakh.

In Tamil Nadu the PG seats in private medical and dental colleges are to be filled at the institution level using NEET-PG scores as per the eligibility criteria and reservation policy. (  This year the deemed universities are demanding as much as Rs 60 lakh as tuition fees for popular courses. There is an immediate need for the Tami Nadu government to establish a Fee Structure Authority not only to prescribe the fee structure but also to monitor malpractices in fee collection. 

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