Published: 04th August 2019
Why education activists are shocked by 'last-minute' screening test for free NEET coaching
Government schools were providing free coaching to the students as regular coaching centres charge exorbitant prices, now it looks students might not be able to access this coaching too
As the Tamil Nadu government fought a losing fight against NEET, it promised to provide better syllabus and coaching classes to help students prepare better for the controversial medical entrance exam. Now it has announced a test of its own - and government school students can only seek free coaching classes if they are able to pass a screening test. Government schools in the state were providing free coaching to the students as regular coaching centres charge exorbitant prices, now it looks students might not be able to access this coaching either.
The teachers, activists and students are especially furious as the exam is scheduled for August 7 and it was announced a couple of days prior. The Director of School Education, S Kannappan told The New Indian Express that the test was just a way to ensure that only students who are 'competent enough' will join the course. The senior official said that this was because students were dropping out of the course within a few weeks.
"Students drop out because of various reasons. If a teacher is able to inspire students enough to retain them, then students stay and learn, if a teacher is unable to inspire, students may drop out. Also at that stage, students could change their mind and choose to study another subject and that is completely fine, but we have no right to tell students they cannot study what they want to study," Prince Gajendra Babu, General Secretary, State Platform for Common School System said.
"First, the government said they think that high school exams weren't enough to get a medical seat, they made an eligibility test mandatory now if students want to prepare for that very exam they are not being allowed to even study for it," Babu added.
Recently, it was reported that not a single student from the 19, 355 government school students who had received coaching from the state had managed to clear NEET and land a medical seat. "They don't want to get a bad name so now they've decided to have a filtering process. What they are doing is not at all correct. If the standard of teaching is not good then improve it, why are you reducing the number of students?" questioned Dr Ravindranath GR, General Secretary, Doctors' Association For Social Equality.
"What the government is doing is against the constitution. The constitution says that everyone should have equal access to education. Now all schools are not equal but government schools are supposed to provide equal and free education to all the students, by not doing so, they are violating the law. See, water is distilled 3-4 times, only then do you get pure water, it's the same for petrol. They are doing the same thing to our students and only want certain students to have access to education," Prince explained.
The education activists also asked if in case all the students did manage to get a 650, would the government ensure a seat for all? "If they really did provide such excellent coaching and all students get in, what will they do? That's why they have this filtration process. And now with announcing that it's on August 7, the students have no time to prepare and even if they wanted to protest, they can't because they're not even giving them to react," Prince pointed out.
Another reason the screening test is extremely unfair is because NEET is now the eligibility test for Ayurveda and Siddha courses too, "It is the same test for those courses too so its extremely wrong for them to have such a filter even before the student attempts NEET," Ravindranath pointed out.
Students cannot even consider protesting is because they will have internal marks and if they are absent for protesting, then they could lose out on their marks. "We have no time at all to protest this new announcement, the government has to understand that this move is completely undemocratic. From filling in vacant teacher positions to making teaching positions permanent, the government has a lot to do instead we are filtering students," Prince said.
It also shows no concern for a students aspirations and preferences. "If a student says — I have passion for this subject, let me study it, we have no right to question it, they should be allowed to study it," Prince said.