Friday 18 August 2017 News Updated at 10:08 AM IST
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Tamil Nadu, a unique case - Deccan Herald
Tamil Nadu, a unique case
R Sathyanarayana, DH News Service,Chennai,
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At a time when several states have come under the purview of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), Tamil Nadu is, perhaps, the only state that has steadfastly opposed it and wants the present system of admission to medical and dental undergraduate courses to be based on the marks obtained in the Class XII exams.

Since 2005, the Tamil Nadu government has taken steps towards abolishing entrance examinations for professional undergraduate courses in the state. And the Act finally got the assent of the President. This Act has been upheld by the Madras High Court and the apex court. However, after the implementation of NEET, the state government continues to point out that introduction of a common medical exam would be a direct infringement on the rights of the state. In addition, the state has taken a consistent stand that rural students and students from a poor socio-economic background will be unable to compete with their urban counterparts in NEET.

Officials say that the rural students will be put at great disadvantage because they lack the resources to enrol in coaching institutes and access materials available to urban students. A new memorandum, which was submitted to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, seeking to exempt Tamil Nadu from NEET, also stated that the common entrance test places students from the State Board at a disadvantage as the syllabus, methodology and the content of the State Board and the examination pattern are quite different.

"This government will continue to urge the Centre to permanently exempt Tamil Nadu from NEET," Chief Minister Edappadi K Palaniswami said and handed over the memorandum to Modi last week. Late chief minister J Jayalalithaa, who had been consistently opposing NEET, had promulgated an ordinance providing an exemption for the last academic year (2016-17) in respect of state government seats (whether in a government or private medical college) at the undergraduate level, thereby temporarily addressing a part of the issue.

Except for the BJP, all political parties - the DMK, PMK, Vijayakanths DMDK, Vaikos MDMK and PMK - are opposing NEET and have launched several protests demanding that the Centre abolish the exam in Tamil Nadu. A source in the Higher Education Department said that 98% of the students in Tamil Nadu study in the State Board.

According to officials, Tamil Nadu is in a unique position as the only state where admissions to professional courses are based on marks in the school leaving examination and not through a separate entrance examination. In 2016-17, 4.20 lakh State Board students studied in the science stream with Biology in 6,877 higher secondary schools, while a mere 4,675 students studied in the same stream in 268 Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) schools. The proportion of rural students joining medical courses has increased from 50% to 63% in the past decade.

After a poor show by Tamil Nadu students in NEET-2017, the state government issued a government order, earmarking 85% of seats from the state quota to students of the State Board for medical admissions.

The remaining 15% was reserved for students from CBSE and other Boards. The government order, however, was quashed by the Madras High Court following petitions filed by CBSE students.

The fear was that students from CBSE schools could take away most of the medical seats since their background helped them score better in NEET.

A senior officer in the Higher Education Department said a large number of socio-economically backwards meritorious rural students have benefited from the governments decision to abolish the common entrance examination. He said for admission to postgraduate courses, the government gives preference to those who have served in rural areas, with special weightage for those working in hilly and tribal areas.

According to him, the state government had also successfully obtained and enforced bonds from those completing postgraduate education in government medical colleges to serve the state for a minimum period, which has helped the authorities to meet the need for specialists in government hospitals.

With the Supreme Court allowing holding of a common entrance test across the country for medical admissions, the Tamil Nadu government unanimously passed two bills in the Assembly exempting the state from NEET. The governor has reserved the bills for the Presidents assent.

Only time will tell whether Tamil Nadu can come out of the morass it finds itself in as the state risks disobeying the Supreme Court order and thereby inviting contempt.