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Vol. XXVII No. 11, September 16-30, 2017

NEET A wake-up call for the State

By The Editor

The vexed issue of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to undergraduate medical and dental degree courses just refuses to go away, as we write. At the heart of the issue is the state of Tamil Nadu’s unpreparedness to cope with such a blanket examination set for the entire country. The political parties of Tamil Nadu are protesting and the State Government has seen its attempts at approaching the Courts on the matter sternly rebuffed. The Centre, with its present attitude of fishing in the troubled waters of the State, has been playing a double game, now seemingly supporting the State and then backing off when action is needed. In all this chaos, a student’s life has been lost. And that was an avoidable tragedy.

The final year of school is a stressful period for most children, what with the pressure to perform being intense. The marks of the public exam are interpreted to be life-changing and at that vulnerable age students tend to take extreme steps in the light of a failure. This is well known to the State Government, which for a few years has been taking steps to counsel students. In such a scenario, how is it that the girl who had impleaded herself in the case that the State Government had filed against NEET was not paid special attention? Surely this was a high profile piece of litigation and merited some close watching? The death has now become a political tool, with every party freely using the girl’s photograph and claiming that it will see that justice is done. This open attempt at seeking publicity from a gross tragedy is lamentable.

Do the political parties have any chance of ensuring that our State will get favoured treatment? This is highly unlikely. The only way out is for the Government to ensure that its Education Department gets cracking on setting up counselling and coaching centres where students can get familiar with the NEET process and its methods of examination. Time and money would be spent usefully if this was done.

It is also high time the State woke up to the reality that its education standards are way below par. We had earlier commented on NEET in our May 16th issue and expressed our view that the fault for this present impasse lies solely with successive State Governments that have consistently aimed at lowering educational standards. This made them popular, for it ensured that most students got extraordinarily high marks. The entrance tests to medical and engineering colleges also being under the control of the State meant the system there was an extension of what was happening at school level. Everyone was happy – the parents, the children, the politicians, the teachers and the bureaucrats. It was one big happy closed world where no external benchmarks existed.

Unfortunately for everyone, Tamil Nadu is part of a larger country. The engineering discipline was impacted first when slowly but steadily parents began to opt for colleges outside the State and gave the go-by to the mushrooming private colleges here, all ostensibly governed by Anna University. The result is that most of these institutions are facing empty seats and several have applied for closure. The medical colleges are now threatened by NEET and the consequence is likely to be similar.

At a time when the world is linked and standards are no longer national, forget local, it is laughable that Tamil Nadu thinks it can continue to fix its own levels of competence. Is this the State that once showed the world that when it came to scholarship, leave alone manufacturing and IT, it was second to none globally? Sadly that would appear to be the case when it comes to education. It is high time the State woke up to raising its educational standards.

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