On average, before the introduction of NEET, from 2006-2016, only 19 Tamil Nadu government school students joined medical colleges per year.
With the help of NEET, more than thirty students from Tamil Nadu joined India's leading institutions last year.
The major Dravidian parties of Tamil Nadu, namely the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (DMK) and the All India Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (AIADMK), both have been opposing the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) examinations since its introduction in 2016. They say they oppose the NEET score based medical seats admission system because the exam and the manner of seat allocation does not ensure social justice.
Recently, the newly elected Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin announced the constitution of a high-level committee headed by a former judge Justice A K Rajan, to study the impact of NEET on medical college admissions in the state.
The official statement released by the state government notes that Tamil Nadu has the historical duty to uphold social justice and that the government is committed to taking measures to remove the effects of NEET. The statement further notes that the educationists demand the abolition of the entrance test and that they want medical college admissions based on class XII board exam marks as implemented during the previous DMK government.
Let us look at the data relating to the selection and admissions for the MBBS course in government colleges in the state for the latest year, namely 2020, to understand the ground realities.
Admissions into private medical colleges and the deemed universities are not taken into account here as their data are not available in public. As for the government colleges also, only the first phase of counselling is considered for want of details relating to the subsequent phases.
The data and analysis presented are based on the details provided by the state government that are publicly available, collated and analysed at the personal level. Hence there could be a margin of error to the tune of 1-2 per cent.
Table 1 presents the total number of seats available in Tamil Nadu and how the common allotment seats are arrived at.
Before going to the common allotment seats, let us see how the 7.5 per cent reservation introduced by the Tamil Nadu government during 2020 is benefiting students from the different social groups in Table 2.
Table 2 above shows that the students belonging to the BC, MBC and SC categories studying in government schools have been allotted more seats than their fixed quotas. Only the ST category beneficiaries are exactly as per the quota.
Now let us see Table 3 below to see how common allotment seats have been distributed among different social categories.
The above table shows that the candidates from the top two social categories, namely the BC and MBC, have been allotted a much higher number of seats. The students from the SC category got 12 seats more, while the ST category students got seats per their quota. It is the OC category students that got the least seats.
The two Dravidian majors, the DMK and the AIADMK, and other Dravidian outfits claim to speak for precisely the above three major social categories: BC, MBC and SCs. But they all got a higher proportion of benefits during 2020. So there is no question of social justice being denied after the introduction of NEET.
What was the situation before the introduction of NEET between 2006 and 2016 when students were selected on the basis of class XII examination marks?
During the entire period, out of the total 29,925 seats available, only 213 government school students got into the medical colleges. It comes to just 19 students per year on average. In other words, it was just 0.7 per cent of students getting into the medical colleges earlier.
So, educationists who believe that the earlier examination system helped more government school students enter into medical colleges appear to be wrong. Moreover, earlier Tamil Nadu students were not used to joining leading all India medical institutions such as AIIMS and JIPMER. With the help of NEET now, more than thirty students from Tamil Nadu joined such institutions last year.
Students from Tamil Nadu have the capabilities to perform at the all India level when opportunities are provided. During 2019, while the all India average success rate for medical admissions was 56.50 per cent, it was 48.77 per cent for Tamil Nadu.
Next year during 2020, the success rate of Tamil Nadu students was 57.44 per cent, which was higher than the national average of 56.44 per cent. In just one year, the success rate of our students jumped by almost 9 per cent.
Hence the main problem is not with the students; they are among the best in our country. The trouble has been with the state education system.
Before the introduction of NEET, the state schools followed the ‘blueprint system’ in which students were trained to mug up the selected portions and score high marks. And the higher secondary courses syllabus remained unrevised for twelve long years. Class XI subjects were set aside and not taught at the schools, though they are required for understanding the class XII subjects.
With the revision of the syllabus during 2017, the teaching of XI class subjects and the provision of training to the aspirants by the government, an increasing number of students are entering the medical colleges now. Besides, the introduction of 7.5 per cent reservation has opened up more opportunities for government school students.
As a result, thousands of students from the socially less-advantaged categories join government medical colleges paying an annual fee of around Rs 15,000 per annum. Even for the students studying in private medical colleges, fee limits are now fixed by the state. Besides, NEET marks are now required for getting seats even under the management quota.
Moreover, Tamil Nadu students have begun to get more seats under the all India quota based on merit, which was not the case earlier. NEET provides them with an opportunity to study in the best medical colleges elsewhere in India.
If we add the number of seats that our students get from the All India quota, the total number of seats will be more.
During the last two years, Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given Tamil Nadu eleven new government medical colleges, besides an upcoming AIIMS at Madurai. It is the largest gift to any state in India. Hence the number of seats are going to increase by around 1,750 in the coming months, and the seats would increase further thereafter for another few years.
Hence what is urgently required is the provision of training facilities to students for the next few years. The state government spends around Rs 24,000 crore annually on school education. Once government schools get ready to provide better education to help students face competitions, then the training might be needed for only those who require additional help.
To conclude, the reality is that the NEET cannot be scrapped. In fact, it should not be, as it is a better system for Tamil Nadu students in many ways. Hence it is the duty of the state to see that the students are enabled to increase their levels of performance so that they would be able to compete and succeed at the national and international levels.
In this context, there is an important point that we have to immediately look into. Students belonging to the Forward Communities (FC) have not been getting their due for many years.
Apart from Brahmins, there are other castes such as Saiva Pillaimars and Kamma Naidus that are estimated to number more than fifty lakhs or so. Though proper figures regarding their population are not publicly available, estimates say they could be around 10 per cent or more. But their share in government medical college admissions is only 3.8 per cent.
It is time that the state government implemented the 10 per cent reservation for the Economically Weaker Sections (EWS) brought about by the Modi government at the centre during 2019. This would help the poorer students from among the FC category to get their legitimate share in the medical colleges.
So let the DMK, AIADMK and the other parties who are against the NEET understand the realities and not waste time confusing the student community and the parents. For heaven’s sake, let the parties not play petty politics with the lives of the medical aspirants and the state's future.