The Tamil Nadu government had formed a committee on June 10 to study the impact of the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) on students from the socially backward classes. As soon as it was formed, the Committee sought responses from the public through email and letter post on their opinions on NEET. Though 86,342 persons submitted their views and the Committee put together a 165-page report on July 14, the report is not available to the public.
An umbrella organisation of 80 plus organisations, Kalvi Padhugappu Kootamaippu (Federation for Protection of Education), active in Tamil Nadu and Puducherry, conducted a simultaneous survey on NEET, and submitted its findings to the state. According to this survey, 87.1% people who participated outrightly opposed the entrance test and 90.5% of them felt that NEET is dangerous for Tamil Nadu.
THE NEED FOR A SURVEY
The Federation for Protection of Education observed that email is not a convenient mode of communication for everyone, and that a large section of internet users are not familiar with it. As such, the federation decided to put together a Google form and share it via social media to a wide circle of people to get their opinions on NEET.
The survey targeted high school and college students as well as their parents and teachers. Ganesan, a core committee member of the Federation, said, “This section of people are directly or indirectly affected by NEET, and that is starkly reflected in the survey.”
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Around 50.5% of the participants of the survey were women. Ganesan said, “This shows the accessibility to social media as opposed to email,” and added, “Even when we conduct surveys in person there are chances of tampering, but through this mode opinions were directly entered by the people.”
Within 17 days, 42,834 people had participated in its survey.
‘NEET IS BIASED AT SO MANY LEVELS’
The report submitted by the federation reveals that the participants of the survey feel that the exam is biased against Tamil Nadu. While majority of the students who write the exam are both Tamil Nadu State Board and Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) students, but the syllabus of the exam is tilting towards the CBSE syllabus and thereby biased.
Majority of the students in state board affiliated schools are relatively economically poor compared to CBSE-affiliated schools. In that manner, the exam is partial towards children from wealthy families.
Another manner in which the exam is tilted towards the students from wealthy families is through the coaching centres. The report highlights that the need for coaching centres for NEET is a violation of access to education, given that these centres demand tens of thousands of rupees for coaching. This further promotes commercialisation of education, said the report.
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The study stressed that the government exam should ideally bridge the gap between the privileged and underprivileged, but it is furthering the divide. It has emotional implications on students, ans suicidal thoughts are prevalent among aspirants it mentioned. Four students from Tamil Nadu, who had to appear for the highly competitive NEET, reportedly died by suicide in a single week in Tamil Nadu.
The report also observed that caste based reservations have taken a backseat in NEET. Students who are on the brink of poverty, majority of whom belong to backward sections and underprivileged communities, are not getting an equal opportunity to clear the exam.
‘NEET IS AGAINST FEDERALISM’
The report outrightly stated that “NEET is against federalism”, and it is “opposed to quality and accessible education for all”.
It noted that education is presently in the concurrent list, but the Centre is taking all decisions related to education and the opinions of states are sidelined. The recommendations of the report demands that education be brought under the state list to ensure accessible education for all.
Notably, the Federation for Protection of Education was formed in 2016 with the single agenda of opposing the National Education Policy (NEP) because it is centralising education and usurping the rights of the states.
Less than 1 lakh students attempted the NEET in 2020 and 57,215 candidates qualified the exam. Applications to the exams have opened up this year, and the Tamil Nadu government is appealing to the Union government to provide an exception to Tamil Nadu from writing the entrance test. The Centre has more or less rejected the appeal.