The Tamil Nadu Dr. MGR Medical University may have just found a way to get around the ‘break system’ for first year MBBS students.

MBBS education in this country has always gone by the break system, wherein first year students cannot move to the next unless they clear all the papers. If a student fails even one paper, he would have to attend the classes for the first year again and can only move on to the second year after he has cleared all the papers, thus facing a ‘break’ in his collegiate education.

Obviously, this was hugely unpopular with students and matters came to a deadend last year, with government college students taking to the streets against the system.

An extra supplementary exam

The varsity’s Governing Council, considering the request from students, resolved, on Saturday, that first year students who have failed one paper can take the supplementary exam within 15 days from when the results were out. The solution, it turns out, is simply to conduct an extra supplementary exam; this one soon after the results are out in September.

“We wrote to the Medical Council of India to do away with the break system, but they categorically refused. So we made a decision to do something to help students, and in a way that would not go against the MCI’s position,” V. Shantaram, Vice Chancellor of the medical university told The Hindu.

Earlier, the first year exam would be in August and the supplementary, in February and students lost precious months before they could even take the supplementary exam and make an attempt to pass the papers they have failed.

“This was something we could change. So, the Council decided that instead of conducting the supplementary exam in February, it can be held soon after announcement of results: within 15 days,” Dr. Shantaram explained.

This way, the students have an opportunity to clear the arrears and join the next year within a short while of commencement of course.

There was a representation last year to the varsity that over 100 students performing well otherwise who had failed in one subject in the first year of the MBBS course.

“Because of a few marks they lose about six months, so this extra supplementary exam which we will hold in September will help them come up to speed on the course, provided they pass,” he added.

Concessions have been made for students who are adjusting to the rigours of MBBS and rural students who are in the city for the first time.

Failing in many papers

However, this is not available for students who have failed in more than one subject. “Students who have failed in more than one subject cannot take the September supplementary exam. They will have to take the usual supplementary exam conducted in February and be part of the break system,” Dr. Shantaram further explained.

Attendance

Also, he added, “We have reduced the mandatory attendance to 85 per cent, from 90 per cent earlier, so students who join the second year course later will manage enough attendance to take the exam”. The MCI norm for attendance is 75 per cent. Kavin Kumar, co-ordinator, Tamil Nadu Medical Students Association, says that it certainly is a welcome move that will bring relief to first year students. However, on behalf of the organisation, he continued to request the university to allow all first year students who have failed (not just those who have failed in one subject) to take the supplementary exam in September.