The Tamil Nadu government has informed the Madras High Court that the state would set up coaching centres to help students face the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). However, educationists have raised concerns about the move, pointing out that students would have to go through a tortuous process in attending coaching classes in addition to higher secondary classes.
Educationist and former Delhi University professor Anil Sadagopal said the very idea of coaching centres was detrimental to the education system and similar to training horses for a race. “Coaching centres are places to teach tricks. How will they help a doctor or engineer? Moreover, the idea of coaching centres by the state is contrary to the two Bills (Tamil Nadu Admissions to Post Graduate Courses in Medicine and Dentistry Bill, 2017, and Tamil Nadu Admissions to MBBS and BDS Courses Bill, 2017) they passed in the Assembly and which are awaiting the President’s approval. Why is nobody talking about that?” Sadagopal said.
The state government, in its affidavit to the HC on a petition on the NEET issue, said it would start coaching centres by this month-end. Secretary of Department of Health and Family Welfare J Radhakrishnan informed the court that the state proposed to identify teachers in every district to impart training to provide coaching to NEET aspirants. According to the government, exclusive training centres for competitive exam aspirants will be opened in all districts with central libraries at a cost of Rs 72 lakh.
Sadagopal said that the implementation of NEET and setting up of coaching centres would lead to the unique public health network and strength of doctors in rural areas in Tamil Nadu getting destroyed. “When there is no in-service quota in the government sector, why should doctors with advanced degrees work in rural areas? Whether these coaching classes are free or not, the government should realise that the fundamental problem is equitable access in our social realities, not uneven syllabus,” he said.
Prince Gajendrababu of State Platform for Common School System, and an anti-NEET petitioner in Supreme Court, said that a tourtuous system awaits students if coaching centres are considered a normal system. He also asked how many such centres a government could set up. “Possibly they will end up striking agreements with private players, supply materials and engage subject experts. But for how many students?” he asked.
Babu said the very idea of coaching centres challenged the morale of students in rural heartlands. “NEET and this idea of coaching centres comes from minds that have no clue about how the majority live in the country. Imagine if I am a student and my father is a fruit seller or farmer. Should I not go and help my father after class hours?… Aren’t you giving me enough lessons in the school syllabus and asking me to attend coaching classes in addition after my class hours? Why should I pass the higher secondary exam then? Aren’t you insisting that I excel in a memory testing game called NEET?” he said.
When contacted, senior officials in the health and school education department said they were trying to figure out the coaching class system and its implementation in a short period.