NEET change left students in a mess
An attempt to improve the quality of doctors and an initiative on defining a road map for school and college education in the country were the major policy decisions in 2016. In both cases, Tamil Nadu expressed strong apprehensions, either completely or partially.
The national-eligibility-cum entrance test (NEET) was made mandatory for medical aspirants, but many states, including Tamil Nadu, rose in protest before bowing down. In Tamil Nadu, where, in the last decade, the Class 12 board score was the criteria for entry to higher education, an entrance exam based on CBSE syllabus could have turned a litmus test, both for the administration and students.
While students would have had to give up dreams of becoming doctors, critics of the state's rote learning system would have been proved right. The state managed to get exemption this year, but NEET will become inevitable in 2017. Medical colleges in TN see this a baby step towards improving standards of medical education. Principal of a private medical college who did not wish to be quoted said, "For a good doctor there are three things that are essential: knowledge of facts, skills to perform certain procedures and the attitude towards treating patients. NEET only attempts at testing the first quality." He further said, "The second quality will, of course, be acquired during the course, but the third quality is human nature. And, there are some medical institutions within and outside India that conduct tests to identify the attitude of a candidate."
The principal feels NEET will mature into a comprehensive test in the future. "It all depends on the state and central governments," he said.
While the state government had obtained exemption in 2016 to protect the interest of the students, officals of coaching centres say MBBS aspirants are gearing up to take up NEET in 2017. Jean Thomas John, assistant director (Chennai and Coimbatore) of Aakash Educational Services, said that until last year, only 5% of students were from the Tamil Nadu state board schools. "This year, each class has at least 20%. And, the good sign is that they are gradually adapting to the system of understanding and applying concepts," he said.
Another policy decision of the Union government also spurred protests in Tamil Nadu. The draft new education policy that was reduced to 46 pages from 230 pages did not go down well among the various stakeholders. Organisations protested against the idea of segregating children based on their academic performance, the bias towards Sanskrit and the impractical idea of imparting employability skills to a 10-year-old. At the same time, educationists plan to appeal to the centre to formulate a policy that could remove corruption from the education system. "Today , education is governed by approvals and recognitions. There are umpteen regulations that govern school and higher education, and these pave the way for corruption. A time-bound system for procedures that are necessary will remove corruption, thus eradicating capitation," said G Viswanathan, president of Education Promotion Society of India.