A few days ago, Tamil Nadu took the first step towards injecting reforms in its school education system by deciding not to announce the State Board Plus Two rank list to ease peer group pressure. That there was ample stress nevertheless was demonstrated by the humungous calls the official 104 helpline received from anxious students, parents and relatives on the result day.
Parallelly, the government announced its decision to overhaul the school education syllabus perhaps realising that NEET could no longer be wished away. This paper had exclusively reported how a student in a Tirupur village with a cumulative average of 199.25 in physics, chemistry and biology—which would have put her on top of the medical merit list—fears she will not make the NEET cut since she could solve just about 50 per cent of its question paper. The blame for her NEET stumble rests on the existing rote learning system which failed to equip her with the skill sets required to answer questions seeking to test her analytical ability.
The warning signals were always there. Hundreds of serving teachers failed to clear the Tamil Nadu Teachers Eligibility Test (TNTET) resulting in the government lowering the bar and introducing grace marks. And the latest Annual State of Education Report (ASER) showed Tamil Nadu at the bottom of the table in the category of subtraction and division skills in Class III among states in the South. While Andhra was the chart topper with 48.1 per cent, Tamil Nadu stood at a lowly 24.8 per cent.
Yet, TN was long content in filling up its medical and engineering seats with State Board toppers without addressing the need to develop conceptual understanding among students, one reason why high scorers in Plus Two routinely flunk their initial engineering semester exams.
NEET has served as a welcome disrupter. While revamping the syllabus, the school education department needs to revisit its question paper patterns and align itself with modern needs.