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Confusion over fate of improvement exams

K. Ramachandran

Government yet to announce policy for Plus-Two candidates

  • Improvement candidates took more than 50 per cent MBBS seats in 2004-05
  • At least four TNPCEE toppers this year are improvement candidates
  • Regular candidates see this as unequal competition
  • Change in syllabus cause for worry for all sides.

    CHENNAI.: An aspirant for the much sought-after MBBS programme, Dharani S is in a dilemma.

    She got her TNPCEE scores last week. Her score was 95 out of 100. The teenager knows she desperately needs at least three more marks if she is to get a seat in a government medical college.

    Dharani is not alone. Many of her peers are undecided on whether to take the improvement examination next year or not. This year (2004-05) is the last with the old syllabus. Next year, she would have to cope with a new and tougher syllabus. Officials have not spoken out whether the improvement scheme is going to be changed or not.

    [Candidates who write improvement examinations spend one extra year (or more) in Plus Two and write the TNPCEE. Some take up only the TNPCEE.]

    The `improvement scheme' has turned into a mini-education industry in some of the western districts of Tamil Nadu, with the growth of specialised schools where improvement candidates alone comprise several sections of Class XII. The students, including sons and daughters of practising doctors, come from almost all the districts of the State.

    These schools publicise their success in terms of the number of students who get into MBBS every year.

    Rival claims

    Last year, there were rival claimants — one in support of improvement examinations, the other comprising students who were writing higher secondary and TNPCEE for the first time. They said the competition between the two was unequal and unfair.

    In case of a tie in marks, the older person (in age) gets the MBBS seat. Improvement candidates are at least a year older in most cases. While there was some form of court resolution last year, the tussle goes on.

    To "equalise the competition," the Government in 2001 said improvement candidates should also write all the Plus Two subjects and not one or two as earlier done.

    In admission year 2006, the situation is going to be graver, says former Director of Government Examinations, P.V. Navaneethakrishnan.

    The improvement candidates will repeat Plus Two examinations in the old syllabus, whereas `normal' candidates would be writing the tougher new syllabus.

    However, those in favour of improvement examinations say that anyway they have to cope with a new syllabus in next year's TNPCEE.

    Even in civil service examinations, candidates are given more than one attempt.

    Added facility

    Dr. Navaneethakrishnan gives a few policy alternatives. "Improvement option is only an added facility and therefore restrictions can be placed, especially in view of the syllabus change.

    Therefore, improvement candidate should also write only in the new syllabus. Those who fail, of course, can take the old syllabus."

    Secondly, 10-15 per cent of MBBS seats can be set apart for improvement candidates.

    Then, they can be permitted to write in the old syllabus itself, since they are not competing with the non-improvement candidates.

    Dr. Navaneethakrishnan says serious thought must be given to this problem now itself and the government's policy must be announced early, so that court litigations can be avoided in the later part of the academic year. This would also help the students to decide on whether to join Class XII again to improve their performance next year or take the TNPCEE a second time in 2006.

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