A circular issued by Tamil Nadu School Education Department on July 31 announced that a screening test will be conducted for government and government-aided school students aspiring to be admitted into its free NEET coaching program. A similar test will be conducted for Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE) aspirants as well. As per the circular issued, a screening test will be conducted on August 7 for which the scores should be sent to the directorate by August 12. It is important to note that no such screening tests were conducted in the past for admitting students into government-run free NEET coaching centers.
It was also announced that the question paper and answer keys for this test will be sent to Chief Educational Officers (CEOs) who will, in turn, forward the progress report to the School Education Department. The circular also adds that weekly tests, conducted every Friday, will further help students prepare better for the entrance exams.
Director of School Education S Kannappan told The New Indian Express that this process of filtration will help â€śincrease the efficiency of training.â€ť â€śEvery centre can take in up to 50 students. Many students who score really poor marks sign up for coaching. A lot of manpower and time is spent on them. However, if we only have interested students, teachers will also be motivated to teach them,â€ť he was quoted.
Speaking to TNM, educationist Prince Gajendrababu says this filtration process is unfair to most students. â€śWe should first give equitable access to education. Rather they come up with such screenings. This is nothing but a concept from the private schools where they select children who score more than 450. NEET is not a fair practice. This selection test is more unfair in an already unfair practice. It is equal to handing over the entire education sector to the market,â€ť he opines.
In 2017, the government of Tamil Nadu had announced free coaching for class 12 students for NEET. Government of Tamil Nadu provides free NEET coaching in tie-up with Speed Medical Institute which arranges video lectures in one school in every administrative block in the state. The classes are conducted only on weekends, public holidays and during school vacations. This year even after two months into the academic year, the classes were yet to start. Under normal circumstances, coaching begins by April every year.
From the students who enrol for NEET coaching, a select number are chosen by the government for residential coaching as the date for NEET gets closer. These students are provided with a place to stay and food for around 35 days after their board exams are completed. In 2018-2019 a month-long residential crash course for NEET preparation was offered to 2,579 students across the state.
The students were selected as a part of Thoduvanam project constituted by the state government, in which students are picked based on their SSLC marks for the coaching. The students are offered free laptops and books and are taught by specially trained teachers to crack NEET. Of 2,597 students, 642 students passed NEET in 2019.
According to a report in The Hindu, 17,630 students from government and government-aided schools in the state appeared for NEET in 2019, as opposed to 9,000 students who took the test in 2018. Of the 17,630 students, 2,557 students qualified, against 1,337 students in 2018. This number accounts for around 4% of all students who qualified from Tamil Nadu. Despite a few students clearing the exam from the state, only two who attended the state-sponsored NEET coaching centres secured an MBBS seat.
Government-run coaching centres have been criticised for their poor efforts in training students even in the past. While private coaching institutes in Tamil Nadu provide coaching anywhere between 1,000 and 1,200 hours per student, the government-sponsored coaching runs for around 550 hours a year. This lesser time devoted to coaching is also being attributed as one of the reasons why students who were coached by the government centres fail to secure MBBS seats.