Published: 27th August 2021
Here's why the number of NEET applicants from Tamil Nadu are reducing by year
According to the Tamil Nadu government’s data submitted to the Madras High Court in 2019, only 2.1 per cent of students who got admitted to all medical colleges that year didn’t have private coaching
The number of students applying for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) has dropped by 7 per cent in Tamil Nadu this year. This is in contrast to the national trend of steady yearly rise in NEET applications and the number reaching a record 16 lakh this year. In 2019, at least 1.4 lakh applicants applied for NEET in TN, and the figure dropped to 1,21,617 in 2020, and further to 1,12,889 this year. Experts are divided on the reasons for the decline in applications in Tamil Nadu even as the rest of the country sees an increase. Some claim that NEET has put medical education out of bounds for many, especially the marginalised sections and middle-class families. Others strongly disagree and say political parties have created so much fuss over NEET that students are not able to prepare for it wholeheartedly.
The entire process of preparing for NEET and cracking it has become more time-consuming and financially straining, opined education activist Prince Gajendra Babu. “On an average, for one year of coaching, a student must shell out a minimum of Rs 3 lakh, so just imagine the financial burden if a student undergoes coaching for two to three years,” said Babu. Besides, experts also cite delay in conducting the entrance test, a significant rise in the cut-off for medical admissions, increase in the number of repeaters and lack of proper coaching as classes were mostly held online, as some of the reasons why application numbers are falling.
According to the Tamil Nadu government’s data submitted to the Madras High Court in 2019, only 2.1 per cent of students who got admitted to all medical colleges that year didn’t have private coaching. To counter the problem, Tamil Nadu began offering free coaching to government and government-aided school students, but the move appears to have failed to yield desired results. “Our coaching is not on par with the private sector,” said a teacher in a government school who manages NEET coaching classes.
Academician L Jawahar Nesan, who was also a member of the AK Rajan Committee formed by the State to assess the impact of NEET in TN, said that if the NEET exam is not removed, then the entire public healthcare system in the State will collapse. “In the pre-NEET days, almost 70 per cent of the MBBS students in the State preferred to work in the government sector, such as GHs and PHCs, but now the majority wants to work in corporate hospitals. And this change has happened as only children from affluent, urban and educated families are getting admitted into medical colleges,” said Nesan.
“Instead of wasting three to four years of time and spending lakhs just to get a MBBS seat, which also does not guarantee you a successful career as again you have undergo a painful phase to bag a PG seat, students are preferring to study B Com or engineering,” said Nesan, who cites it as the prime reason for boys losing interest in NEET. Among the applicants this year, 71,745 (63.5 per cent) are female candidates while only 41,144 (36.5 per cent) are male candidates.
To which E Balagurusamy, former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University, vehemently objects. “If there is no entrance test, then how will you filter out ineligible students? The availability of medical seats in comparison to demand is much less, so we need an entrance test mechanism to strike a balance between demand and supply,” said Balagurusamy. He said the true remedy lies in improving the quality of education in government schools and not in opposing the test.
Balagurusamy also rubbishes the idea that preparing for NEET is more time-consuming and expensive.
“In the last two years, due to the pandemic, students have been facing problems in preparing for NEET. Adding to it, members of DMK-led government has been continuously making statements that they will ban NEET in the State, which has created confusion. Hence many have not applied for it,” said Balagurusamy. “Coaching (centre) culture existed in India much before the introduction of NEET,” he added. Though the total number of applications have dipped, interestingly, the number of students opting to write the exam in Tamil has increased by 16%. The number went up from 17,101 in 2020 to 19,867 in 2021. Students of government and aided schools eyeing the 7.5% quota for government school students might be the reason for this rise. “Even if the students fail to get a seat in a government college, the State government will sponsor their education in a self-financing institution. So students want to cash in on the opportunity,” said education consultant Jayaprakash Gandhi.