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Write NEET and repeat

INDWrite NEET and repeat

“I did not get a medical seat because I got only 320 out of 720 marks in NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) results last year. I had the dream of becoming a doctor since childhood, so I skipped the year, joined a coaching centre, and studied hard. This year, I got 600 marks, and I am hoping to get a medical seat,” said Namrata (name changed), a 20-year-old student from Kolar, a town about 65 km from Bengaluru.

Pradyumna, from Bengaluru, is also a repeater. He appeared for NEET for a third time this year and is waiting for medical counselling. “I have been writing NEET continuously since 2021, hoping to get a government quota seat. I got the 32,000th rank in this NEET exam. Last year, I secured the 3,52,000th rank even though I trained all year,” he said.

For Monica S.J., a resident of a village in Ramanagara district, close to Bengaluru, it has been a challenge to attend college as well as prepare for NEET since she is from a rural area. “I could not go to coaching centres because there are none nearby. I studied with notes from college lectures, online resources, and by referring to guides,” she said. But her rank is below 17 lakh, which means a medical seat is out of the question.

Students at one of the examination centres in Mangaluru for the NEET on May 5.
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Recurring stories

Several such students have written the NEET this year. They are waiting for counselling, which has been delayed because of the alleged exam scam and the ongoing Central Bureau of Investigation investigation.

Now, even high scorers are unsure of getting a seat of their choice. For example, Kalyan V. of Bengaluru, who got the All India Rank-1 (AIR-1) in the NEET this year and wanted to join the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi, is not certain about getting a seat since an unprecedented 67 students have got AIR-1.

The alleged exam scam this year aside, statistics show that the trend of students taking a break after II PU to prepare for NEET exclusively has been growing. A large number of candidates are repeaters.

According to the information provided by the Karnataka Examination Authority (KEA), out of the total 10,917 medical seats available in 2023, as many as 7,012 went to repeaters, that is 64.2%. This includes a student who passed the II PU exam in 2007 and attempted UGNEET successfully.

This year, out of 89,088 students who have qualified for counselling, 53,616 are repeaters, that is 60.2%. Among those who have registered for counselling, which has yet to start, is one candidate each who passed II PU in  1999, 2000, 2004, 2009, 2011, 2013, and 2015.

“Freshers, meaning students who are writing II PU exams and also taking NEET in the same year, find it hard to compete with repeaters who have dedicated a full year for preparation,” said Divya Prakash, a student from a Bengaluru college.

Students get their documents checked at an examination centre in Bengaluru before entering the exam hall for NEET on May 5.

Students get their documents checked at an examination centre in Bengaluru before entering the exam hall for NEET on May 5.
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Demand for restrictions

Students and parents are unhappy with this trend of candidates writing the exam repeatedly. They are calling for restrictions on the number of attempts. “As of now, it is their right to appear again and again for NEET. However, the Union government should impose some restrictions on repeaters,” Pushpalatha, a parent from Bengaluru, argued.

Speaking to The Hindu, Sharan Prakash Patil, Minister of Medical Education, said, “In this regard, with the concurrence of the States, the Union government should bring regulations. There is an age limit for the entrance exams conducted for the various government recruitments. Similarly, repeaters appearing for NEET should have a limit of two or three attempts or an age limit.”

Coaching centres

Meanwhile, intense competition for NEET has resulted in coaching centres mushrooming. According to Higher Education Department estimates, there are around 2,000 coaching centres in Karnataka. Most repeaters join one of them and train for a year. These centres charge a hefty fee, conduct classes with boarding facilities, and have strict schedules and restrictions.

“The question pattern has got tougher by the year. Because of mobile phones, TV and the internet, children are unable to study properly at home. So, at the coaching centres, we keep them away from all these distractions,” said Pradeep Eshwar, an MLA and founder of Parishrama NEET Academy, Bengaluru. “We make them study continuously for at least six to seven hours a day. Thus, coaching centre students are more successful in NEET.”

Even though the Higher Education Department has ordered that these coaching centres should be registered under the Karnataka Education Act, 1983, pay a fee of ₹25,000, and meet 22 conditions, none have complied so far.

However, Pradeep Eshwar said Parishrama NEET Academy has obtained permission from the Ministry of Corporate Affairs to run a coaching centre. “I am paying 18% GST on the fees received from each student,” he said.

Beyond their reach

While on the one side, academies are thriving, on the other side, medical education is beyond reach for students who have no adequate financial resources or can’t skip a year. This is particularly true for those from rural areas or those who have studied in Kannada medium schools. Despite the NEET being conducted in regional languages, this time, the number of students who wrote NEET in Kannada is only 1,065.

“Medical courses are a daydream for rural and Kannada medium students,” said Sripada Bhat, an education activist. “Those who have money go to coaching centres. Except for tier 1 and tier 2 cities, there are no coaching centres available for CET, NEET and JEE exams. Therefore, the government should immediately take steps to provide training for these exams at the college level.”

No free training

Earlier, the Higher Education Department used to train students seeking admission to engineering courses through an online programme called GetSetGo. It also helped medical seat aspirants partially, as they also trained in Physics and Chemistry subjects as part of this course. However, this hasn’t happened for a year.

In the 2024 Budget, the Karnataka government announced that it would provide CET and NEET training in all government-run PU colleges. However, no steps have been taken to implement this yet. Medical Education Minister Sharan Prakash Patil said, “We are working on that. From this academic year, CET and NEET coaching will be started in the government colleges.”

Meanwhile, Monica, the student from Ramanagara, has given up on her dream of pursuing medical education. She cannot afford to drop one year, and even if she does, there are no specialized NEET training centres near her village. “I am just hoping to get an engineering seat or join some other professional course that will fetch me a job,” she said.

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