Although the Tamil Nadu government has opposed NEET saying the national medical college entrance exam skews the playing field against rural students, students in the state have consistently improved their performance .
In four years, records show, the number of Tamil Nadu students who were in the top 95th percentile of students who qualified NEET has doubled. This, as the number of TN students taking NEET has grown by 7.38 percent between 2019 and 2022, the corresponding national figure is 16.3 percent.
In 2017-18, a Supreme Court judgment came into force making NEET the only single window exam for admission to any medical school in the country. Before NEET, admission to medical colleges in Tamil Nadu was mainly based on board marks.
Since 2017, the state has tried to exempt itself from the exam. Not allowing NEET was the election promise of the ruling DMK party. Chief Minister MK Stalin introduced a bill in the Assembly seeking exemption of Tamil Nadu students from NEET, which was passed unanimously and now awaits the President’s assent.
Data obtained by The Indian Express from the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts NEET, shows that the number of students from the state who were among the top scorers has doubled in four years.
To secure a seat in a government medical college a student needs to score high or a percentile and just qualifying the exam is not enough and hence the aim of medical aspirants has been be in the top percentile of qualified students for NEET.
Data from 2019 to 2022 shows that the total number of students who scored in the 95th percentile or above in Tamil Nadu has increased from 2,307 students or 1.87% of the total candidates who appeared in the ‘state exam at 3.48% or 4,600 candidates in 2022. .
Nationally, in 2022, 88,343 of the 17,72,329 candidates who appeared in India scored above the 95th percentile or above, which is about 4.9% of the total candidates.
Tamil Nadu’s performance among the top scorers is better than states like Maharashtra, which has the highest number of candidates appearing for the exam.
In Maharashtra, 3% of appeared candidates scored in the 95th percentile or above in 2022. On the other hand, Uttar Pradesh, which had the second highest number of NEET candidates, saw 5.3% of its 2.14 lakh candidates in 95th percentile and above this year.
Political parties in Tamil Nadu have argued that NEET deepens disparities as rural students cannot afford coaching like their urban counterparts and are therefore at a disadvantage in the exams.
A nine-member panel, commissioned by the state government to assess the impact of NEETs on medical admissions, found that the proportion of rural students in medical colleges in Tamil Nadu fell from an average of 61 .45% (pre-NEET 2016-17) at 50.81. % (post-NEET 2020-21).
According to the committee’s report, the proportion of English medium school students in medical colleges has increased from 85.12% to 98.01% since NEET. On the other hand, Tamil medium school students now make up only 1.99% (2020-21), down from 14.88% four years ago (2016-17).
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Speaking to The Indian Express, Prof Jawahar Nesan, member of the state government committee, said, “I will not deny that the performance of students in Tamil Nadu has improved in the last two years. There has been a slight uptick, yes. But the reasons to oppose NEET are still valid.This entrance test encourages coaching.As a result, most of the qualified NEETs are students who can afford to enroll for coaching. This examination is leaving behind a part of our society and is exacerbating the rural-urban divide.”
Meanwhile, among all states, Rajasthan, home to Kota considered the coaching hub of the country, has the highest percentage of students scoring above the 95th percentile: 11.2 percent in 2022.