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NEET 2018: 20 of 32 Chennai districts saw a dip in medical admissions

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NEET 2018: 20 of 32 Chennai districts saw a dip in medical admissions CHENNAI: At least 20 of the state’s 32 districts saw a decline in the number of students sent to medical colleges in 2017-18 when the National Eligibility-cum Entrance Test (NEET) was first introduced.

The total number of government seats under single window counselling also dropped from 4,225 in 2016 to 3,546 in 2017 but the number of students from other states went up from 589 in 2016 to 715 in 2017, according to Tamil Nadu Dr MGR Medical University data.

Backward districts such as Ariyalur, Thiruvarur and Ramanathapuram, which did not have large share for seats for students even in 2016, sent less than 10 students in 2017. Ramanathapuram, which sent 38 students to medical schools in 2016, had just 7 last year, Ariyalur, which had 9 in 2016, sent 4, and Thiruvarur, which had 6, sent four.

These areas have been declared backward by the health department as they lack adequate doctor-patient ratio and have huge vacancies in hospitals. The government is trying to give incentives in post-graduate admissions for students working in these areas, but lack of reservation for in-service candidates may not encourage many doctors to work in rural areas, said Doctors Association for Social Equality general secretary Dr GR Ravindranath.

“It will take a few years for our rural students to clear NEET. Until then we will have huge urban rural divide. And this will affect services at the government hospitals in rural areas. Vacancies in these places will widen,” he added.

While one in every 5 seats went to a student from a Chennai school, the capital district with Kancheepuram and Tiruvallur bagged 30% of seats compared to 12% in 2016. Academicians say ‘merit factories in districts such as Namakkal, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri, which used to churn out state toppers in Class XII and sent hundreds of students to medical colleges until 2016, took a beating.

While NEET supporters claimed backward districts benefited, RTI activists say reports from the state selection committee are contrary. An RTI reply to K Pandiarasan, an MDMK functionary from Tirupathur in Sivaganga district, showed only one student, from a private matriculation school in Karaikudi municipality in the district, managed a medical seat in 2017-18. Directorate officials said the data was of “natives” of the district and not essentially students who studied in Sivaganga schools.

The school education department is set to introduce a revised syllabus, aimed at preparing students for competitive exams, but teachers say its effect will not be immediate. “Most students in government schools are from poor backgrounds and are solely dependent on the lessons they receive in school to write any exam. Many schools still don’t have qualified teachers or infrastructure. The question is how do we introduce additional coaching for competitive exams or send qualified teachers to remote villages and districts they come from,” asked S Savithri, a retired school headmistress in Trichy.

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