According to the official data released by the National Testing Agency (NTA), the number of students applying for NEET (National Entrance Cum Eligibility Test) 2020 in Tamil Nadu has decreased significantly. Against an increase of almost 74,000 applicants for the exam nationwide, there has been a drop of nearly 17 per cent of applicants in Tamil Nadu for the period 2018-19. There were a total of 1.17 lakh applications this year as compared to 1.40 applications in 2019. The decline has been registered for the first time after 2016.

The students gave different reasons for the decline in the number of aspirants from the state of Tamil Nadu. There has already been opposition to the exam in the country for a long time, and one of the reasons for this opposition is the affordability of the exam.

As per the Tamil Nadu Government, NEET is discriminatory; the students who belong to a financially low family or belong to rural place in India find it difficult to stay updated with the latest course pattern of NEET which in turn means losing the chance to get admission in MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery) in the country.

NEET 2020 is scheduled to be held on May 3, 2020. The exam is considered as the most popular exam for getting admission in BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) and MBBS; the students find it difficult to deal with the situation. Also, the higher cut-off scores of NEET exam have made the situation stressful for the state board students from Tamil Nadu.

According to many teachers and professors, the NTA should fix a limit on the number of attempts or bar on the old students from appearing for the exam, so that others can get a chance to show their skills and knowledge in the NEET exam. At present, there is no limit on the number of attempts a student can make to clear the NEET, which is promoting aspirants to take a gap of one year and apply next year.

Another important reason for the decline as per the students is that repeaters who are giving the exam for second or third time pose a threat to the first-time applicants. According to the students and counsellors, the continuous increasing cut-off and number of repeated students make it difficult for the state board students to score high in the exam which results in lesser chances of getting admission in the MBBS course. The growing demand-supply gap in the number of seats is acting as a hurdle in front of the students, which demotivates them from preparing for the NEET exam.

As per the data, in 2019, out of the total 4,202 students who joined MBBS after scoring high in NEET 2016 (almost 70%) were old students who sometimes take a break to give the exam in the coming year. This year as well it is anticipated that many students will take a break and will appear for the exam again in 2021.

According to N Vijayan, the principal of Zion Matric Higher Secondary School, Tambaram, many students got demotivated after seeing an increase in the cut-off, cut-off increased by almost 80-100 marks which becomes challenging for the students. Most of the repeaters got the seats which demotivate students appearing for the first time for NEET from giving the exam. Though they are counselled to apply early rather than waiting the MBBS trend is changing a lot, and the students are exploring other options as well apart from just medicine.

There has been a decline in the number of students taking Biology stream in class XI, which results in a significant reduction in the number of NEET aspirants as well from the government and government-aided schools as well. Even the teachers are demotivated due to losing the interest of the students in the NEET exam. The candidates who pursue NEET don’t have much option left to pursue their career, which is resisting them from applying for the course.

The state government of Tamil Nadu has made many dedicated efforts to remove the requirements to appear in the exam. The government of the state even appealed at the Supreme Court of India on 6th Jan 2020 regarding the same issue. The issue if not resolved at the earliest will result in further dip in the overall numbers. How the issue will be resolved will get clear with time only.