A clear failure: On Tamil Nadu and NEET

Having mishandled NEET, Tamil Nadu must focus on upgrading academic standards

Updated - August 02, 2017 12:15 am IST

Published - August 02, 2017 12:02 am IST

This is one failure that the Tamil Nadu government will struggle to live down. Its handling of the challenge posed by the new norm that all medical college admissions should be based solely on the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test has been a disaster. It failed to prepare students under its school education board for the demanding common entrance test conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education, and it could not defend before the judiciary its controversial decision to block 85% of medical seats for State board students. In the process, it has completely let down aspiring doctors from the State. The admission scene for professional courses has been beset by uncertainty, confusion and all-round despair. The national admission policy was undoubtedly thrust on an unwilling State government by the Supreme Court and the Centre. Yet, despite knowing that the State cannot remain insulated from the policy, the Tamil Nadu government did not respond with a concrete plan to upgrade its syllabus and prepare students for the task ahead. On the contrary, it misled students into believing that they would get an exemption from NEET. It may have been justified in passing two Bills to exempt the State from NEET and send them to the Centre to secure the President’s assent. But meanwhile it should have told students to be ready for NEET if the assent did not come. The Centre is obviously reluctant to advise the President to give his assent, as granting exemption to one State may lead to similar demands from other States; and, the legislation may not survive the Supreme Court’s scrutiny.

It was an act of desperation that led the State government to reserve 85% of the seats for Tamil Nadu board students. The biggest flaw was that classifying students based on the board through which they passed their higher secondary examination was legally impermissible. It was no surprise when a single judge struck down the order . Now, a Division Bench has upheld the decision . It has made a pertinent observation that it is up to the State government to upgrade its syllabus and infrastructure so that students from Tamil Nadu do not lag behind their counterparts elsewhere. Tamil Nadu’s apprehensions about NEET-based admissions are genuine. The prospects of students from rural areas and economically weaker classes may indeed suffer. However, these fears need not be permanent. The time has come for the State government to focus on raising academic standards at the school level. It can no more evade its responsibility for State board students not faring well in highly competitive entrance tests. It should rework its school syllabus and teaching methods to get State board students NEET-ready next year. As for this year’s medical admissions, enough time has been lost. The State should move ahead with the process of admitting students based on the NEET rankings without further ado.

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