Mandatory 50% marks in each component of every subject has been dropped

On January 10, the Governing Council of Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University in one stroke did away with several new rules that had caused much bitterness among students of the university last year.

The most contentious move to make 50 per cent marks compulsory in each component of every subject (two theory papers and practicals) has now been dropped, much to the cheer of many MBBS students. It was made mandatory (for a pass) by former Vice-Chancellor Mayil Vahanan Natarajan, who recently retired. D. Shantharam has succeeded him.

While doing away with the minimum 50 per cent, the varsity now has decided to allow the old MCI norm of a 50 per cent aggregate in each subject (including all components), but has gone on to specify a 40 per cent minimum in each of the two theory papers. For instance, in the subject Anatomy, there are two theory papers – 40 per cent should be scored in each of these two papers. Along with orals/practicals, however, an aggregate of 50 per cent is the required pass per cent.

“We have decided to maintain that 40 per cent marks in each theory paper to ensure that students do not come for the exam unprepared in one paper, hoping to pass by just studying the other paper,” Dr. Shantharam told The Hindu on Wednesday. Internal assessment marks are calculated separately. The earlier move of 50 per cent per component was also to ensure that every student was thorough in each subject, but there was a lot of opposition to that.

Another sore point with the medical students was the ‘break’ system, wherein students who had failed their first year had to wait six months to join the first year again, and then repeat that examination before proceeding further.

Now, the university is also considering introducing a supplementary examination soon after the announcement of results, as is the case in some universities in Andhra Pradesh, Dr. Shantharam explains. The idea is to hold it within a month, and students who clear that exam need not have to join the ‘additional’ stream. However, the Vice-Chancellor adds that this must also come up before the Governing Council and be passed to come into effect.

The university has apparently has written to the Medical Council of India seeking a resolution to the ‘break’ system. The above rule will provide relief to the students until a certain path of action is cleared by the Central Council. The attendance percentage required of a student has come down to 85 per cent from 90 per cent. The number of minimum working days for first year MBBS has also been brought down to original 240 days, from the earlier 270 days.

“We are really thrilled that the Vice-Chancellor has lent his ear to our demands. Some representatives of the students met him as soon as he took charge and articulated our demands. He listened patiently and promised to address them, take some issues to the General Council wherever necessary,” says M. Kamaraj of the Tamil Nadu Government Medical Students Association.

Another aspect that has brought cheer to the medical student community is that they have breaks between two exams. “Earlier we had to take all the exams in one stretch, without any leave in between,” he adds. Students have thanked the Vice-Chancellor for bringing down the minimum attendance percentage and the working days in a year.

“Mostly, students of medical colleges do not bunk classes. Bringing down minimum attendance per cent helps us when we are ill, or when out of town students go home for holidays,” Kamaraj adds.

G.R. Ravindranath of the Doctors’ Association for Social Equality, who has been co-ordinating student protests against pass percentage, attendance and break system, says, “This is definitely a move in the positive direction. What is key is that by doing so, there has been no dilution of standards of any sort. The 40 per cent requirement in each paper is higher than MCI norms, but even that is acceptable, as the aggregate pass percentage is 50.” Medical students, on the other hand, have also urged that even the 40 per cent requirement per theory component in each subject be removed, and MCI norms adhered to completely.