Why is it alone students of Tamil Nadu are known for committing suicides due to NEET? Since 2017 during this time around the NEET exam in the corner, Tamil Nadu always has the news of students committing suicides? Who should we blame for this? Is it the students themselves or their parents? or the government and the entire society?

As a researcher who is keen on the working of Dravidian Populism, I did conduct a survey this year, through phone calls and chats during this lockdown. I was interested to know the psyche of students in Tamil Nadu who has been preparing for NEET in this pandemic time. I came across various kinds of views. To be precise, Students from the central government syllabus were not too stressed about the exam. One name Dhivya, class 12th in a c.b.s.e school was stress-free and she was all prepared to write the exam. At the same time, I also happened to speak to a regional board class 12 studied student from the same place as Divya. She was all tensed and her stress level was too high. This is not to blame the students but need to blame the education system that we have formulated over the years. There is also an urban-rural divide all over India in terms of exams like NEET.  In this regard, 95% of the students who crack the exam have attended the coaching institutions which shows the urban rich bias related to the exam.

Here I would like to trace the history of the medical entrance examination. The prestige and social recognition associated with the medical profession were turned as a vote bank politics through Dravidian populism. From 2007 till 2016 the Dravidian populism politics scrapped the state professional courses entrance examination which has severely compromised the quality of professional course entrants. During this period only the 12th state board examination marks were used to shortlist the entrants. This had heavily dented the analytical and reasoning ability of the students and encouraged rote learning. This can be vividly seen in the suicide of S.Anitha, in 2017 who scored an astounding 98% in her 12th state board exam and an unbelievable 12% in her NEET exam. The lag effect of this populist measure still haunts the Tamil Nadu NEET aspirants. This year alone Tamil Nadu has witnessed 4 suicides due to NEET.

NEET has its inherent flaws still it’s not reachable to the various section of the population in a diverse nation like India, As the statistics show that around 95% who has taken coaching for NEET are able to clear the exam, which automatically excludes the rural mass. This in a way gives way for the privatisation of education.NEET was meant to bring in transparency and accessibility in private medical institutions admissions. But it has largely failed, as private institution charges an exorbitant fee of 90 lakhs for the M.B.B.S course. All these factors make medical education elitist and non-inclusive.

To conclude, Introduction of NEET was not a well-thought exam. As India is asymmetrical with different state curriculum exam, NEET has resulted in a scenario like putting the cart before the horse. National Education Policy 2020 with its universal curriculum and digitization of education along with private partnership would enable high-grade content to reach nook and corner of the country. Largely education in India is oriented towards scoring high marks in examinations. This does not make education all-inclusive as the mental, spiritual and physical needs of the students are compromised. Hopefully, the New Education Policy 2020 adheres to all the needs of the students and make education all-inclusive.

Lipika Ravichandran is  Junior Research Fellow, Centre for Political Studies,School of Social Sciences, Jawaharlal Nehru University. Email id: lipifossil@gmail.com