CHENNAI: "How can you evaluate 12 years of education in a three-hour test?" asked State Higher Education Minister K Ponmudi, while explaining the DMK-led Government's consistent opposition to the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) at the tenth edition of The New Indian Express' ThinkEdu Conclave.
After Tamil Nadu Governor RN Ravi returned the anti-NEET bill passed by the Tamil Nadu assembly, the State Government again adopted the resolution in a special session in February this year. Speaking on Not a NEET India: Respecting Regional Needs, the Minister said that Chief Minister MK Stalin has been opposing NEET from the time that he was the opposition leader.
"We are not opposing NEET without reason. After MK Stalin became Chief Minister, the AK Rajan committee was appointed to learn of its impact on the students," Ponmudi said. The committee had reported that NEET had an adverse impact on students from disadvantaged sections.
Since India takes pride in 'unity in diversity' with its different languages and cultures, the education system should also be tailored to suit the diverse population. Only urban students like those in Chennai who follow a CBSE syllabus may be able to prepare for NEET without much difficulty whereas those in rural areas will struggle, he emphasised.
Students with Tamil as their medium of instruction will be at a further disadvantage since the usage of certain terms may vary when they write NEET from what they have been used to, although their understanding of the concepts may be strong, he added.
"With the introduction of NEET, schools and students are not taking Class XII Board exam marks seriously and think it is enough to just clear the exams and instead, prepare for NEET. As a result of this, coaching centres that charge from Rs 2 to 5 lakh have mushroomed across the state," said Ponmudi.
After the death of a Karnataka-based student, who had secured 97% in Class XII, but who had to go to Ukraine to pursue medicine, other states have joined the chorus against the eligibility test.
Through the National Education Policy, the BJP-led centre is also attempting to introduce entrance exams at various levels including in Classes VII and VIII. When the students enrolling in higher education are few in number already, it should not be made even more difficult for them, he argued.
Armed with data, Ponmudi said that in the year 2016, 3544 students from the State Board syllabus had taken up MBBS from Tamil Nadu. After NEET was introduced, this number has reduced by around 1000 with only around 2500 students admitted in 2020-21. However, the number of students from CBSE who were admitted for MBBS courses in Tamil Nadu had increased significantly.
With the help of our MPs in Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha, the Tamil Nadu government is also making an effort to shift education from the concurrent list to the state list, Ponmudi said.
ThinkEdu 2022 is the grand tenth edition of what has consistently been India's biggest education conclave for a decade now. Stalwarts of India's academic, economic and political ecosystems are sharing their ideas, ideologies and reflections on the past, present and future of India's education system at the event. Over the last nine years, the conclave has seen stalwarts such as former Presidents, Dr APJ Abdul Kalam and Dr Pranab Mukherjee, MPs Jairam Ramesh, Smriti Irani, former CM of Jammu and Kashmir Farooq Abdullah, NITI Aayog's CEO, Amitabh Kant, and spiritual guide Sadhguru.