Published: 12th September 2022
NEET UG 2022: What do the results tell us about coaching centres in India?
Coaching centres seem to have become a necessary evil for students attempting to clear the only exam in India that clears them to pursue Medicine
Results for the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test Undergraduate (NEET UG) were declared this week, on September 7. Out of the 18.72 lakh students who appeared for the exam, 9.93 lakh students managed to clear it this year. The pass percentage was around the same as in 2021, at 56.28%, announced the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts the exam.
Even as the qualifying candidates celebrate the fruits of months of labour, it is pertinent to note that a good number of the 'toppers' have invested in a coaching centre to help guide them through the process. The coaching centre industry has been a ballooning business in India and with entrance exams like NEET, which could make or break students' careers, the percentage of parents and students seeking the best coaching centre to nail their dreams has only increased over time.
"NEET is the single-point entrance test for medical education in India. It is the largest entrance exam in terms of the number of registrations. Naturally, the competition is incredibly high. The syllabus is based on the NCERT Class XII syllabus. This puts students from State Boards at a huge disadvantage. Those who don't take up coaching simply find themselves lagging behind," said Advocate Anubha Srivastava, who campaigned for the students who were seeking to get the exam postponed this year.
The question then arises if joining a coaching centre actually gives students an edge. The answer, as it comes from a student who took the exam this year, is a confident 'yes'. "Obviously we need coaching. In order to clear NEET UG, taking tests is extremely important, understanding questions and patterns is important. And the coaching industry does that well. They ensure students put in a constant effort and State Board students, with the test being based on the NCERT syllabus, do need to put in the extra effort," says Sahil Kumar Sahu, a 2022 NEET aspirant from Odisha. He adds that while the best centres are often expensive, there are now an endless number of smaller, more affordable centres that have opened up and students can pick from among any of these.
Tamil Nadu has been steadfast in its opposition to NEET. Twice this year, the TN government introduced a bill in the State Assembly, seeking to exempt TN from the exam. The government also formed the AK Rajan Committee to consider the impact of the exam on students. The committee, in its findings, listed 20 reasons why NEET was negatively impacting the students and noted that the coaching industry, in just Tamil Nadu, was worth Rs 5,750 crores.
In light of this year's results, the DMK government in Tamil Nadu perhaps feels vindicated by its stance on NEET. "Out of 100 students who cleared NEET, 99% would have attended a coaching class. The fees for them are exorbitant. They are available only in urban centres. So NEET is inherently discriminatory against the rural poor," Saravanan Annadurai, spokesperson for the DMK, tells Edexlive.
Then there are also claims that the coaching centres give preferential treatment to students who are academically brilliant. "They are not providing quality education. They focus on students who are brilliant and run a separate batch for these students, providing them with extra facilities," adds Srivastava. She points out that the government can take steps to make NEET a fairer fight. Parents and students have been raising their voices for two attempts at NEET in the year, much like with the Joint Entrance Exam (Main). This will provide students with an extra opportunity to take on the exam and prevent them from having to drop a year, and invest in coaching for yet another year. There's also the argument that there can be regulations imposed on coaching centres with regard to their fee structure. "Coaching is inevitable if you have to clear an exam like NEET. If some regulations can be introduced to curb the fee in these coaching centres, it could make for a more level playing field," adds another student.
"NEET totally disregards school marks, so importance to school education is getting diminished. When medical admission is solely based on NEET marks, coaching classes become omnipotent. It’s a Mafia — a 5,000 crore mafia — thriving due to the adamancy of the Union Government making NEET compulsory," remarks Annadurai.
And if coaching is inevitable for the only exam that can allow students to become doctors in the country, would it help if the government makes it accessible to all students from the primary school level? Srivastava says, "Absolutely. I have been submitting memorandums to the Education Ministry in this regard. If they can introduce these subjects and topics at the school level across Boards, distribute booklets and allow students to adjust to the curriculum, it can prevent students from low-income groups and those from State Boards from lagging behind."