Thursday, February 15, 2018

Coaching is crucial for JEE, CET, NEET tests

The National Sample Survey Office, in its 2015 report, revealed that at least 25% of school and college students in India were attending coaching classes. In several states, the figure was at 75% — the actual numbers today may be higher.
Coaching classes are a parallel universe in the education space in almost all developing nations, including India. It is, therefore, worth examining — for parents, students and those involved in higher academics — the causes for the rise in demand for coaching classes.
The main reason for lakhs of students joining coaching classes is the inadequate quantity and quality of academic inputs offered in formal educational institutions such as schools and colleges. Moreover, parents today — due to increasing pressure at workplaces — are often not able to find sufficient time to hand-hold their children in matters concerning higher academics. So, many children end up needing attention from proven specialists. At the same time, the coaching classes provide specialized teaching and personalized study guidance facilities, which help students get a competitive edge in school and college exams. Students with various learning disorders also benefit from coaching classes. There have been instances in which students, who are unable to grasp concepts, are ignored by their lecturers who simply don’t have the time or resolve to assist a small number of strugglers.
Besides these everyday reasons, extra coaching has become almost indispensable for aspirants of competitive and entrance exams like JEE, CET, NEET, UPSC etc. as specialized guidance for these exams are not offered in schools and colleges. Coaching classes also often provide access to their teachers for instant doubts clarification via several technological tools.
Also, as coaching classes have kids from various institutes, students get an opportunity to widen circles and be aware of methods at other colleges and schools.
In summary, coaching classes are essential for entrance exam preparations. The mushrooming of coaching classes is a clear indicator of the failings of the formal education system.
If the government wants to reverse the trend of increased dependency on extra coaching, it must first work towards drastically improving quality of academic input in schools and colleges. It must also reach out to the coaching classes community to enable them to play a constructive role in addressing the various academic requirements of the students’ community.
The government and the society must view coaching classes as part of the solution. Coaching classes can potentially play a catalytic role in the education space. This will help all stakeholders boost learning outcomes in students and build a robust knowledge society.
*This Article has been published by Times of India, Pune on 6th February 2018.

Friday, June 16, 2017

`Pick your choices for engineering with a plan for the future and acquire skills'

Times of India Pune dated 13 June 2017.
Expert Speak- Prof. Durgesh C Mangeshkar, Director, IITians Prashikshan Kendra

“June and July are a nail-biting phase for aspirants trying to select the best engineering college or branch. A wide range of options can confuse students and parents alike. Professional advice, counseling and tips can help.

Students must refer to the official websites of the entrance exams and corresponding centralized admission procedure (CAP). They should read the brochures carefully to understand the rules and nuances of admission, to avoid mistakes and confusion while filling forms.

Documents like domicile certificate, proof of nationality, caste certificate, income documents of parents in case of OBC-NCL & EBC categories, std XII and entrance exams mark sheets should be kept ready as they need to be submitted during the counseling rounds.

How to prioritize an engineering college or a certain branch is a common confusion among aspirants. Taking into account the medium-term plans of the student after graduation can help find a better solution to this one. If heshe intends to do MBA or pursue civil services, college brand may be given preference over engineering branch. If research, academia, job or business is the goal, then the branch of engineering must be preferred over college. Fundamentally, there are only two branches of engineering viz.mechanical and electrical. The fields like civil, metallurgical & materials, production, manufacturing, chemical etc. are all derived from mechanical engineering. On the other hand, computers, electronics & telecommunications, energy etc. are derived from electrical engineering.

It is advisable to pursue a broad-based branch at an undergraduate level and take up specialization for higher studies as the student knows his inclinations by then.

The AICTE's national ranking framework report can help with college preferences.

Students who have scored well in national exams like JEE and BITSAT must opt for studying on a national campus. Besides bright academic exposure, they can get to socially interact with students from across the nation. This enhances EQ and shapes their personality holistically. Even if it is a local college, a student must work towards his communication skills, enhance his knowledge of IT and economics to become a more employable engineer.”

Sunday, September 25, 2016



India is a diverse society having a broad spectrum of formal learners (students) in terms of academic, cultural, economic, ideological and social parameters. It is estimated that 65% of the Indian population is below the age of 35 and 54% of the population is below the age of 25. These statistics are often cited by experts as evidence of the ample demographic dividend that India as a nation has. This demographic dividend if encashed by India can catapult her to become a Superpower within two decades or less.  On the other hand, if India does not educate her youth well and does not equip them with employable skills, a demographic disaster is just around the corner as over 2 million youth are entering the job market every month in India !

The Education policies pursued by successive Indian Governments in the past 70 years have placed India in an unenviable position to lose this historic opportunity and precipitate a demographic disaster by 2020. The unprecedented mandate that the Narendra Modi-led BJP Government secured in May 2014 presented the Union Govt with an excellent opportunity to reverse this unfortunate trend and positively transform India’s dismal educational landscape.  However, two years have passed by and little has been achieved so far. The only 3 good things which the HRD Ministry has done from 2014-16 are building toilets for girl students in rural areas, creating a National Rankings Framework (based on 5 measurable parameters) for all senior colleges and initiating a nation-wide consultation process from Gram Panchayats in villages to urban civil societies via personal or public meetings and also by online means towards framing a New Education Policy. 

The Union Govt of India had framed an Education Policy Document in 1968 and in 1986 (modified in 1992). It is only after 30 years since 1986 that the Union Govt has resolved to come up with a New Education Policy 2016 for the nation. It remains to be seen when the New Education Policy is finally presented to the nation and to what extent the diverse viewpoints presented by millions of citizens and experts are factored in. The New Education Policy 2016 has the potential to be a transformative document which can significantly alter the course of India’s future if implemented right. Hence, this article highlights the realities of India’s education sector in 2016 and makes select but extremely powerful suggestions to be incorporated in India’s Education Policy 2016.  I have already submitted these suggestions to the Union HRD Ministry for their consideration.

Current key Statistics & Data in Education sector :

When anyone wants to transform anything, it is essential that one is aware of the current state of affairs. This helps one to set reasonable time-bound targets and also prompts us to identify the major factors due to which certain desirable parameters are poor. This in turn can start the process of implementing innovative solutions to remove the blocks and bring progress and growth. So, let us take a quick look at the key statistics in Education sector in India today as per the data available from various authentic sources. 

As per the Union Govt. records, in 2014-15, there are about 29.25 crore students and 94 Lac teachers in India’s education sector. There are about 25.95 crore students in school education from Std.1 to 12 and about 3.3 crore students (2.7 cr in UG courses, 36 L in PG courses, 23 L in Diploma, < 1 L pursuing Ph.D.) in Higher education. There are about 80 lac teachers in the school education sector from Std.1-12 and about 14 lac teachers engaged in the Higher Education sector of India. India has 15.1 lac schools from Std.1-12, 711 Universities, 40760 colleges and 11922 stand-alone institutions.  Thus, India’s education sector is one of the largest in the world and almost one-fifth of India’s population is involved either as a student or teacher or non-teaching staff member in education sector.

For every 10 students who enrol in Std.1, 9 reach till Std.6 but only 6 students reach till Std.8 and hardly 5 (47/100) reach till Std.10. The Gross Enrollment Ratio (GER) in Higher Education stands at 23.6%.  Hardly 0.25% of students who enrol for UG courses go on to enrol for Ph.D. / Research courses. There are hardly 55000 Ph.Ds which India produced in the 10 years period from 2006-2015. Despite being an IT Services hub, hardly 50 Ph.Ds are produced by India in Computers Science which is what an average American University produces annually.

Every year, about 20 lac students complete their education in the technical domain and arrive in the job market. Out of these, 9.5 L are Engineers, 7 L are Diploma Holders, 2.4 L are Management professionals, 35000 are Doctors, 30000 are Architects and 50000 are B.Pharm graduates. NASSCOM, FICCI and CII have repeatedly said in the past 10 years that barely 15% of Engineers coming out of India’s 3500+ Engineering colleges are employable!

Current expenditure on Education is 3.5% of GDP when the recommended figure is 6%. Two-thirds of schools in school education sector are run by the Government whereas two-thirds of colleges in higher education sector are run by private sector.

India’s education sector suffers in quality at all levels of education. As per successive reports prepared by the National Assessment Surveys (NAS) which is under NCERT or the Annual Status of Education Report (ASER) by NGO Pratham, the dismal quality of education in the school education sector from Std.1-12 has been amply highlighted. For example, a recent ASER report found that 50% of Std.5 students and 25% of Std.8 students could NOT read texts of Std.2 !!!

In the Higher education sector too, hardly 2-4 colleges from India (mostly the IITs) figure in the Top 1000 colleges as per the Times Higher Education Rankings and Quacquarelli Symonds (QS) Rankings. Hardly 9% of the accredited Indian colleges have accorded been A-grade by NAAC. In the Engineering domain for example at undergraduate programs, there are 18 lac seats available across the nation in first year of Engineering of which only about 60000 are in A-grade colleges.

Every year, about 3 lac students from India go abroad (the US, UK, Australia and Canada are favourite destinations) for studies (mostly post-graduate and doctoral programs) and spend about 60000 crores per year. The annual spending by Indians for studying abroad is twice the amount allocated in the Union budget for higher education, and nearly 20 times what the Indian higher education institutions spent on research collectively. Some of India’s brightest minds are amongst these students who study abroad and most of them never return back to their motherland. This causes the infamous brain-drain problem which India has suffered since independence.

Out of the 1.5 lac IITians (regarded as the topmost echelon amongst Indian students) produced since 1960, it is estimated by IIT Alumni bodies that about 65% are settled in India as in 2015. The net economic impact of the activity of these 1.5 lac IITians across the globe annually is estimated to be a staggering $1.5 Trillion which is almost 85% of the GDP of India. Much of this economic activity however happens in US and Europe benefitting nations in those continents.

Principal Dilemmas :

While framing any Education Policy, there are some fundamental dilemmas which must be resolved by any Govt. clearly. Else, the confusion on these aspects is mirrored on to all elements of the Education Policy and defeats the very objectives of such a policy. The principal dilemmas are as under :
1) Should Education be a not-for-profit sector or for-profit sector ?

2) What must be the divisions of power between Central & State Governments as concerns Education sector ?

3) What must be the level of autonomy and powers between the Government and Private players as concerns Education sector ?

Ambiguity, sloppiness in implementation and Ad-hocism as concerns the above 3 are the major reasons why the Education sector in India is in a terrible state despite 70 years of Independence.

However, if the Union Govt of India taking into confidence the incumbent State Govts frames a clear Education Policy 2016 keeping in mind the current politico-socio-cultural-economic trends across the globe, a lot of damage done so far in the past 70 years can be repaired and a refreshing lease of energy can be inducted into the critical Education sector which can potentially make or break India’s tryst with destiny to become a superpower.

A possible resolution of the 3 dilemmas :

I would firmly advocate clarity to the most minute details on all the 3 dilemmas irrespective of what stand the Govt. takes on each. However, based on my understanding on the functioning of the Education sector, I would like to propose the following resolutions to the 3 dilemmas given the current global and national socio-cultural-economic scenario.

Dilemma 1 : School Education must be not-for-profit and Higher Education may be for-profit ! This means that private senior colleges shall pay taxes to the Govt. Let us not forget that the fees paid by students for Higher education is actually an investment with a clear Return of Investment calculation in terms of salaries that they are likely to get. Hence, the commercial angle is inextricably entwined to the cause of Higher education and hence one must not fear the “for-profit” paradigm. In practice, the not-for-profit paradigm in higher education nurtures many unfair practices and is hypocritical or pseudo-socialist by its very design.

Dilemma 2 : School Education must be under State Govt. only and Higher Education must be under Central Govt only. The tasks of providing Rankings to senior colleges, everything about ENTRANCE & EXIT exams, designing curriculum for Maths & Science from Std.1-12 must be with Central Govt.  The State Govts can introduce elements in the school curriculum which instill a sense of pride in students for the nation and their State and also create harmony and respect for all religions and cultures in minds of students.

Dilemma 3 : Govt. and private sector must run the school education sector as per the norms laid by the State Government. But Higher education must be left mostly for the Private sector (including Foreign Univs). However, norms for giving admissions (Entrance exams), granting degrees (Exit exams), Rankings of colleges and maximum fees chargeable shall be in the hands of the Govt. The Central Govt. must however run 10 model colleges for each professional course to set the fees and quality standards for private colleges and foreign Univs operating in India. The Govt. must play the role of a facilitator in Higher education and not get embroiled in running too many colleges. Instead, the Govt. must help students to finance their higher education by energising the Education Loans market in India and also provide scholarship schemes to meritorious students. A vibrant Higher education system can attract foreign students too in a big way.

The above represent my views on the 3 dilemmas which may have their pros and cons. The Govt. must invite experts and evolve a clear resolution to the 3 dilemmas. If these 3 prickly dilemmas are resolved with black and white policies leaving negligible grey areas, a lot of positive momentum and exuberance will dawn in the Education sector.


There are 7 aspects which merit attention in overhauling the entire Education system of the nation viz. Ideological, Academic, Legal, Administrative, Financial, Infra-Logistical and Technological. Any change suggested will have its repercussions on all these 7 aspects.

The 5 suggestions which are given in this article below can have very high impact on the edu-scape of the nation and will need work to be done on all 7 aspects which the Govt. machinery is adept at doing. So I will not discuss the details of the 7 aspects in this article but shall make the suggestions which are essentially policy decisions. Secondly, there are 3 principal objectives in the Education sector viz. Access, Equity and Quality.

The Govt and private sector are doing their bit in improving access by starting huge number of schools and colleges across the country and allowing poor students into private schools via RTE (minority schools must not be exempt of RTE though). The obnoxious License Raj system in Education needs to end and the process of starting a new educational institution must be liberalised of the stringent rules and also simplified so that private entities without political blessings shall be emboldened to start new educational institutes. The Govt. must also encourage the formation of Online Universities and private MOOCS courses which can be authorised to grant certifications and degrees.

The challenge of Equity is complex and is evolving with different types of reservations in place. I believe that reservations policy must be based on economic backwardness as it is quantifiable. Reservations based on social backwardness (a non-quantifiable parameter) if allowed for whatever reason must be time-bound (say 10 years for a community). The other challenge to address the aspect of equity is the easy access to Education loans and edu-finance to students. Here, the Govt must take the lead and create innovative avenues for students to finance their education. Banks, Corporates, NGOs and Philanthropists can be involved in the Govt schemes to finance universal education. However, this article shall not deliberate further on the Equity aspect.

This article primarily focuses on the crucial yet often neglected Quality aspect. As concerns the crucial aspect of Quality, I wish to make 5 cogent suggestions as under :

1) The biggest challenge to revamp India’s education sector (school education as well as higher education) is the extreme paucity of good teachers. Teacher recruitment is a big scam requiring jacks and bribes. Teachers and Professors due to a lack of a feedback-oriented system have become rigid and insensitive to the teaching requirements of students. Most Indian students shall tell you that they find most lectures in their schools and colleges boring and need to join coaching classes and tuitions to develop interest, understand the content and do well in exams. 
     Teachers training on a massive scale have been suggested by many experts to solve this problem. However, I don’t think this solution will work on the ground as the time required to train teachers is quite long and teachers must have the mindset to change their teaching styles which is rare.
Another solution given by experts is to allow any knowledgeable person who may or may not have a B.Ed. degree or may or may not be NET / SET passed to teach in schools / colleges / universities. This is a good solution but must be augmented by a feedback system. This solution however does not guarantee that the demand-supply ratio will be benign.

The most effective solution to circumvent this huge challenge of providing good teachers in all subjects at all levels of education is by using technology. The Govt. must record lectures of charismatic teachers in all subjects from KG to PG and make these video lectures available FREE of cost to students of all schools and colleges via apps, internet, tablets and pen drives. There are over 1 lac schools in India which has only one teacher ! Making schools and colleges technologically enabled which shall show the video lectures will make the teacher’s job easy. The teacher shall maintain discipline in class when the lecture is played and shall clarify doubts and difficulties, counsel and motivate them besides making students do homework and check it. This way the quality of lecture input can be uniformised across the nation. The Govt. can have a Screening procedure to select such charismatic teachers from schools, colleges, coaching institutes and industry. Corporates, NGOs and philanthropists can be encouraged to donate funds to make schools and colleges technologically enabled so that the video lectures can be beamed in every classroom across the nation. This single step shall usher in a veritable revolution in education in India.

The MCOOS program under the SWAYAM platform of the Union Govt. is an excellent platform to launch this program.

2) India needs desperately thousands of professionals, researchers, innovators and entrepreneurs in the coming years to create and sustain a vibrant economy. A culture of logical and applied thinking in India’s education system is the foundation for developing quality professionals in any field today. And a logical thinking process at school level is essentially instilled by the study of Maths and Science.
It is absolutely necessary that the policy of ONE NATION – ONE SYLLABUS – ONE TEXT BOOK must be implemented across the nation. The subjects of Languages and Social Sciences can be different for each Board. But it makes every sense to have one curriculum in Maths and Science for the entire nation. It is ok if there are two levels in Maths and Science for each Standard and students may opt for Basic Level or Advanced Level as per their aptitude.
Having a uniform syllabus across all the 30+ Boards of the nation will not create problems for students who shift their Boards during the course of their studies from Std.1-12.  If this uniform curriculum (at 2 levels) is designed by a team of professionals and the curriculum is benchmarked to prepare students on par with students in the technologically advanced nations like Israel, Russia, Germany, Japan, France, China and South Korea, this step can produce miraculous results within a decade for the nation.

3) The intersection of school education and higher education is the phenomenon of ENTRANCE exams for professional courses. There are multiple Entrance exams for a single professional course with different exam syllabus, pattern and exam fees. It is highly essential that the policy of ONE NATION – ONE EXAM must be implemented for every professional course.
The NEET has already become the Single National Entrance exam for all MBBS and BDS courses in all colleges of the nation. Likewise, a Single Entrance exam must replace all existing CETs for Engineering, Law, Pharmacy, Architecture etc. The modalities of these ENTRANCE exams may be handled by an independent overarching body like the National Testing Agency similar to the ETS in US which conducts the SAT, GRE, GMAT exams.

It is also essential that just like a Single Entrance exam, a Single National EXIT exam must also be held for critical courses like Medicine, Law, Engineering etc. There are many sub-standard Universities in the nation which dole out degrees without any credentials thus creating unemployable graduates. The EXIT exam will arrest this phenomenon.

It is quite feasible to conduct these ENTRANCE and EXIT exams in Multiple choice questions pattern in On-demand, Online formats with two attempts allowed per year per student with best performance taken. This shall considerably reduce the stress on students too !

4) Students find it extremely difficult to choose a college and field for higher education. If the Govt. makes it compulsory for every college (about 40000) to participate in the National Rankings Framework which is already in place, every college shall then be accorded a Rank and students shall find it easy to make their choice of college based on their performance in the relevant Entrance exam. This appears to be a trivial step but is a very powerful step towards ushering in quality education. This Ranking exercise shall create a healthy competition between colleges to attract more quantity and better quality of students which will naturally lead to improvement in overall quality of all colleges.

One of the parameters in the Rankings criteria must be the cumulative feedback scores of teachers in a college given by students in a confidential written manner. Another important criterion for Ranking of senior colleges must be the level of college-industry interface that is present in terms of curriculum, projects and placements.

Another related measure which the Govt. must take is to allow flexibility to the student to shift from one course to another in the first two years of undergraduate  education as most students are not clear as to which field to pursue. The level of flexibility allowed in a college must constitute another criterion for Rankings of undergraduate colleges. For example, a student who takes admission in the first year after Std.12 in Mechanical Engineering should be allowed to take courses in Law or Management before being allowed to freeze his line of course by the end of the 2nd year. There are creative solutions possible to address the multiple possibilities that a student may want to take. But having flexibility in programs is essential to channelize students into a field which they love to pursue. Currently, Indian education system (even the IITs) is very rigid and students cannot make a choice after exploring a few fields. This is grossly unfair and undergraduate programs must have flexibility over a wide spectrum of courses. The need for professional career counsellors available in all Indian educational institutes is very high.

One must keep in mind that more than 70% of Engineering students do not pursue Engineering after their graduation. Why so ?  Simply because they did not love the Engineering course ! But they realised it later in the 2nd year or 3rd year of Engineering !! Had they got flexibility in the first two years, they would have discovered the field of their choice and would have come out of the University as graduates with characteristic passion in their field of choice instead of lacklustre unemployable graduates which is the dominant situation today.

5) The Education industry (if we may call it so) in India is currently valued at $100 Billion of which $40 Billion is the coaching / tuitions industry alone which is almost like a parallel universe in Education sector ! It is indeed surprising that a phenomenon which comprises almost 40% of the Education space in terms of finance is brushed under the carpet and hardly discussed in formal Govt. policy making circles and instead is referred to in derogatory terms. The coaching industry of India is ubiquitous from KG to PG across the length and breadth of the nation. The growth of the coaching industry is the biggest proof of the failures and inadequacies of the formal education system in India. It is shocking that even after 70 years of independence despite advocating a socialistic ethos, no Govt has tried to regulate the coaching industry.

Currently, the coaching / tuition industry comes under the Finance Ministry and the Education / HRD Ministry has no jurisdiction over it.  But it is a fact that the coaching industry has an overbearing influence on the academic activities from KG to PG. Hence, certain regulatory norms on the coaching industry must be laid down by the Finance Ministry. It would be unfair on the coaching industry which is contributing hugely in terms of taxes to the Govt to be subjected to a fees regulation. But certain simple rules can be framed which every coaching entity must abide by which will regulate the industry in a big way. Some of the rules which could be used to regulate the coaching industry are :

a) Banning any advertisement in print, outdoor, electronic media as any advertisement of coaching institutes brazenly humiliates the formal education sector thereby embarrassing the Govt. as well. This rule is implemented in the US and many other developed nations. 
b) Payment of fees must be done strictly in cheque / DD and not in cash. Harsh punishment can be levied on the customer too who pays fees in cash. This will end the cash economy prevalent in the coaching industry.
c) Refund of fees for those students who wish to quit a course midway must be done on pro-rata basis till 50% of the course duration. No refund thereafter. This is a fair rule for the coaching provider and receiver.
d) No teacher who has a permanent job in formal education sector and is entitled for pension and salary as per Pay Commissions must be allowed to teach in coaching institutes. Punishment can be termination of teaching job and fine.
e) Coaching institutes shall have to mandatorily declare names and phone numbers of enrolled students and their payment details on a Govt. website as a matter of rule. The students must also simultaneously do this registration. Hence, a cross-check can naturally happen.

Alternatively, if the Govt. does not wish to regulate the coaching industry at all, then it must give formal recognition to coaching institutes (which satisfy certain clear specifications) as formal educational institutions on par with schools and colleges. So if this is done, a student shall simply register in a particular Board and give Board exams but shall not attend any lectures in any school or college. For learning purposes, the student shall depend on the coaching institute.

These 5 suggestions on FREE video lectures, uniform Maths-Science curriculum, One Nation-One Exam policy, compulsory Rankings of colleges and Coaching industry regulations, if implemented in the right spirit, can revolutionise the education sector in India and produce world-class human resources within 2 decades and catapult India into a global superpower redeeming her to the status that India enjoyed for thousands of years till about 1000 AD.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


In 2010, the Board of Governors of Medical Council of India (MCI) proposed that a Single National Medical Entrance exam called NEET for all Medical colleges in India must be implemented across the nation. However, the decision was challenged by Private Medical colleges by filing over a 100 petitions in various High Courts of the country. The matter was combined into one unified petition and was adjudicated by the Supreme Court in July 2013. The NEET exam was struck down by the Supreme Court on July 28, 2013 in a 2:1 split judgement citing the reason that though NEET was good in intent, the MCI constitution did not empower it to conduct Entrance exams. Hence, NEET was not conducted in 2014 and 2015 and admissions to Medical colleges were done on the basis of various CETs and AIPMT exam.
However in a dramatic turn of events, the NEET was reinstated by a 5-judge bench of the Supreme Court headed by Justice Dave on April 11, 2016. The Supreme Court ruled that NEET exam shall be the Single National Medical Entrance exam for all Medical colleges in India including Government, Private and Deemed Universities. Only 2 Medical Colleges were exempted from NEET-UG viz. AIIMS and JIPMER. The Supreme Court stated that NEET would streamline the Medical Admissions process, eliminate corruption & high capitation fees culture and save students the labour of writing multiple Entrance Tests. The Supreme Court also clarified that constitutional, regional and minority quotas will remain unchanged and the only change introduced is that NEET exam shall replace all other existing exams.
Between April 11 to 27, 2016 everyone assumed that the NEET ruling was valid from 2017 onwards. However, a clarification was issued by the Supreme Court on April 28 stating that NEET exam must be implemented from 2016 itself.  This clarification came as a shock to lacs of medical aspirants, their parents and teachers across the nation as students had prepared for State-level CETs whose syllabi, exam pattern and level of difficulty are significantly lower than the NEET exam.
The emotional and mental turmoil that students and parents were facing was reflected in street protests and numerous headlines and media debates and reports across the nation. The broad theme of the protests was that NEET was a welcome move but ill-timed. There would not have been any hue n cry due to this decision if the NEET decision were to be implemented from 2017 onwards. But this decision to implement NEET from 2016 meant that students in States like Maharashtra, Gujarat etc. who had prepared for State-CETs for 2-years and were to appear for the CET exam were suddenly told that the State-CET would be null and void. Instead, they would have to appear for NEET exam to be held 2.5 months later on July 24, 2016. The burden to prepare for NEET in 2.5 months was too much for these students as the difference between the State-CETs syllabi and NEET takes over a year to cover. Coaching classes were puzzled too and so were the State Governments over the decision.
All attempts made by various petitioners to modify the April 28 order were quashed by the Apex Court. In this background, a concerted effort was taken by several media groups like Lokmat, Times of India, Indian Express, Sakaal etc. in Maharashtra with the backing of educationists (of which I too was a part), parents bodies and teachers and also political parties to create a pressure group on the State & Union Government to defer implementation of NEET by a year. This was a sensible campaign to relieve the undue stress on students appearing for 2016 medical entrance exams. A good idea must be implemented at the right time. If it is implemented at a wrong time, there are possibilities of the baby being thrown out along with the bath water due to the consequent opposition.
The State Governments held meetings with the Union Health Ministry and on May-20, 2016 the Union Government promulgated an Ordinance to defer implementation of NEET for admission to Government Medical colleges to 2017 onwards. However, admission to Private Medical colleges and Deemed Universities was to be on the basis of NEET only for 2016 as well. This was a welcome move by the Union Government to provide relief to lacs of Medical aspirants from States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Punjab etc.
In another sensational turn of events, the NEET Ordinance was challenged in the Supreme court on May 24 by the original petitioner, an NGO called Sankalp Charitable Trust. The Supreme Court accepted the challenge petition but refused to stay the NEET Ordinance on July-14. The Supreme Court however rapped the Union Government for issuing an Ordinance which went against the Supreme Court ruling of April 28. The Apex court said the Ordinance was in bad taste and was not on sound legal ground but in order to prevent further chaos to students, the Apex Court wisely chose to not stay the Ordinance.  This final judgement from the Supreme Court completes the tumultuous drama over NEET which was triggered by the April 11 judgment.
In many of my articles on this blog, I have argued strongly for the implementation of NEET across all Medical colleges in India. However, as events unfolded between April 28 and May 20, various voices and opinions by teachers, parents and eminent personalities were audible thanks to different media outlets of which many of them opposed NEET not just from 2016 but from 2017 onwards as well. The arguments used by them to oppose NEET from 2017 onwards must be analysed and rebutted if found specious. The remaining part of this article is dedicated towards this end alone !

WHO OPPOSES NEET from 2017 onwards?
There are 3 principal groups in society which oppose NEET from 2017 as under :
1. Private Medical Colleges : NEET lends transparency to the admission process and monitoring by Government agencies which prohibits Medical colleges from earning exorbitant capitation fees. The modus operandi of Private Medical colleges was to conduct a dubious Entrance Test which could be easily manipulated. Students were deliberately failed and vacancies created in Merit quota which were transferred to Management quota. Capitation fees can be legally charged from any student applying for Management quota. As per estimates published by some media outlets, about Rs. 25000 crores in capitation fees exchange hands for Private Medical college admissions every year.   The introduction of NEET has ruffled their feathers and they are opposing the decision tooth and nail.
2. Coaching Classes & teachers who are NOT capable of teaching for NEET :   A majority of teachers in the coaching circuit in States like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Kerala, West Bengal, Orissa, Assam, Karnataka etc. are not comfortable teaching the NEET syllabi. Their expertise and experience lies in coaching students at the level of State-level CETs or XII Boards only.  The introduction of NEET has placed these teachers in an awkward position and naturally they are opposing NEET strongly often by pushing students and parents to speak out. Essentially, their strategy is to shoot from the shoulders of Parents and Students. Instead of taking up this as an opportunity to upgrade themselves, these teachers choose to oppose NEET and wish to perpetuate the pre-2016 status quo of State-level CETs for Medical admissions.
3. Lazy students : It is a fact that out of about 12 lakh Medical aspirants in the nation, barely 50000 secure a Medical seat. This means a mere 4% students secure a MBBS seat every year. Those who secure a seat are no doubt intelligent and hard working students. There are atleast 2 lac more students who too were hardworking but could not perform on the day of the exam and hence lost out. Please note that the remaining 9.5 lakh students were the insincere students who may or may not be intelligent but certainly lacked the key elements of sincerity and hard work during the 2 crucial years of their preparation. As you can see clearly, 4 out of every 5 medical aspirants is in the lazy students category. And let me tell you as someone well-entrenched in the coaching circuit, even this is an extremely optimistic estimate. Now, lazy students are bound to oppose any exam like NEET which has a greater syllabus, higher level of difficulty of questions and a tougher exam pattern.

As you can see, all the 3 groups above have vested interests and must be ignored. They do not realise the long-term implications of NEET on the overall health sector of the nation. They are only concerned with their short-term selfish interests. Hence, their opposition must fall on deaf ears. Supreme Court deserves praise for doing exactly that !!!
Now let us examine some arguments employed against NEET by different personalities who are apparently not part of the above 3 groups.
SPECIOUS ARGUMENTS often employed against NEET :
1. Rural – Urban inequality :
Argument :  If NEET is introduced, urban students shall gain an unfair advantage over rural students as urban students have access to quality coaching whereas rural or poor students do not.
Rebuttal : When MHT-CET was prevalent from 1999-2016, most of the Top performers who secured admissions in GMCs were from urban non-poor backgrounds who had access to quality coaching.  Even for MHT-CET, quality coaching is available in select cities and towns of Maharashtra and not in rural areas. The fees for MHT-CET coaching is also not affordable to poor students. So there is no argument against NEET as the status-quo does not change.

2. Vernacular students suffer :
Argument :  NEET is in English and Hindi language only whereas State-level CETs are in local languages too.  Hence, students studying in vernacular medium shall suffer due to introduction of NEET.
Rebuttal :  It is not difficult for CBSE to set NEET papers in vernacular medium too. Having said that, it must be understood that all Medical Education after Std.12 in MBBS / BDS courses is in English medium only. Hence, a reasonable proficiency in English language must be checked at the Entrance exam level. Since there is no separate English section in any Medical Entrance exam, the language of the exam being English is good enough.

3. CBSE gains :
Argument :  NEET is based on CBSE syllabus and hence CBSE students shall gain a competitive advantage over State Boards students if NEET is introduced.
Rebuttal :  Questions asked in NEET are not directly from the NCERT text books but need application of the concepts. That needs special coaching and a different approach which no college going student develops. A CBSE student is no better position therefore than a State Boards student. To prepare for NEET, a student needs to take specialised coaching from experts and only the intelligent and hardworking student excels. The performance has little or nothing to do with what Boards the student is studying in.

4. State students lose out :
Argument :  By introduction of NEET, the students of a particular State will suffer. Students of other States with better NEET scores will occupy seats in Medical colleges of that State. This is gross injustice on State students. (This argument has lead to mass protests orchestrated by various regional political parties in many states of India especially in TN, Pondicherry etc.
Rebuttal : Admissions to Medical colleges of a particular State happen on the basis of fixed quotas reserved for State students and out-of-State students. There is a 85% State quota in Government Medical Colleges and 65% State quota in Private Medical Colleges. These State quota seats are only for students of that State and no outside State student is given that seat. The introduction of NEET does not disturb the quota system (based on constitutional, State, regional, girls etc.) at all. Only the exam has changed. It was earlier a State-level CET and now it is NEET. So the argument that State students shall lose out due to NEET is baseless.

Thus, there is no sane reason to oppose NEET. From 2017, the Supreme Court has made NEET compulsory for all the Medical colleges in India except AIIMS and JIPMER. Students must take cognizance of this phenomenal change in Medical Entrance rules and prepare for NEET properly by taking professional coaching for the same.
The uncertainty over NEET is over. The time to prepare for NEET neatly is now.

Friday, June 10, 2016


The recent NEET controversy has triggered an extremely important nation-wide discussion on syllabus differences between several Boards and the urgent need to uniform the syllabus of all different Boards of the nation. There are 27 different Boards in India today for higher secondary courses and each Board has a different syllabus, text book and exam system. 
The subject of Education is in the Concurrent List and hence both the Union Government and State Government are stakeholders in framing various policies pertaining to Education sector. Due to the advent of Entrance Exams for professional courses made compulsory by a Supreme Court ruling of October 2004, various Common Entrance Tests (CETs) at State and National level started for all professional courses in India.
In the past 5 years however, there have been attempts made by the Union Government to replace multiple CETs for one professional course by a Single National Entrance Exam. The recent case of NEET for Medical courses offering MBBS & BDS is a striking example. Similar attempts have been made for Management and Law courses as well. This has brought forth the central issue of syllabus for the National Entrance exams vis-a-vis State Boards syllabus. The syllabus of the national entrance exam in various subjects does not match or conform to the syllabus covered in the text books of State Boards and hence causes inconvenience and disadvantage to several students who appear for the exam. Most National Entrance exams conform to NCERT core curriculum norms which is not strictly followed by all State Boards. Hence, the crisis.
In order to resolve this crisis once and for all, it is proposed that for scientific or technical subjects like Maths, Science, Geography, Computers, Accounting, Economics, Environmental studies etc., there must be one syllabus for all the Boards of the nation from Std.1 to 12 as and when these topics are taught. All the Boards must follow the same text book for that subject at that particular Std. For example, the Mathematics text book of Std.7 must be same for all the Boards of the nation. There is no regional pride (PRADESHIK ASMITA in Marathi) which must be attached to teaching of scientific or technical subjects. This proposal is in line with the principle of ONE NATION – ONE SYLLABUS – ONE TEXT BOOK which is adopted by several advanced nations like Finland, Sweden, Norway etc. and also proposed by several eminent educationists and HRD Ministers in the past decade.
However, for subjects which have a social, cultural or political influence like Languages, History, Civics etc., the syllabus and text books must be different for different Boards as they shall reflect the regional and cultural diversity of the nation. Regional pride and cultural sentiments has a definitive place here and must be respected and honored.
For Maharashtra State which is currently grappled with the crisis of syllabus mismatch in Physics, Chemistry & Biology with respect to NEET exam, the solution lies in adopting the “Goa Model” immediately. The Goa State Board for the past 10 years has adopted NCERT books which are published by Goa State Board under their name with official permission from NCERT. A royalty may be paid to NCERT for doing so. The Maharashtra Higher Secondary Board (HSC) must do the same immediately for all scientific and technical subjects. This will uniform the syllabus of Maharashtra State Board with CBSE and National level Entrance exams and prevent any similar crisis that may occur in future for students of our State. It will also enable students of Maharashtra State Board to compete on an even keel with students of any other Board in India and thus boost their prospects.
The NEET crisis exposed the mismatch of syllabus and has ushered in a welcome change long overdue in our nation of ONE NATION – ONE SYLLABUS – ONE TEXT BOOK. Hence, the NEET crisis may turn out to be a blessing in disguise !!!

Tuesday, February 9, 2016


The Entrance Exams to several professional courses like Engineering, Medicine, Architecture, Pharmacy, Pure Sciences etc. has Physics as one of the subjects. Physics is the foundation for learning almost all of Engineering and hence is an extremely important subject of Science. However, most aspirants of these Entrance exams struggle in studying Physics and find it tough. The least average marks in MHT-CET exam every year is in the subject of Physics. There are many reasons why Physics appears difficult to students and there are methods by which Physics can be made easy to learn. This article attempts to give an efficient approach to study Physics with ease.
1.  The first thing that must be appreciated about Physics is that it is a conceptual subject and solving problems in Physics means learning to apply the right concepts in an appropriate manner. Students struggle in Physics as they do not grasp the concepts in a systematic and rigorous manner.
2.  The other significant aspect of Physics problem solving is that it involves intelligent use of mathematical tools like Vectors, Graphs, Trigonometry, Theory of Equations, Co-ordinate Geometry and most importantly Calculus techniques of Differentiation, Maxima-Minima and Integration.
3.  The right sequence in which Physics must be studied is the following :
  • Units, Dimensions, Vectors & Working Knowledge of Calculus
  • Particle Mechanics
  • Rigid Body Mechanics
  • SHM, Gravitation and Elasticity
  • Fluid Mechanics
  • Thermal Physics
  • Electromagnetism & Circuits
  • Wave Mechanics
  • Optics
  • Modern Physics
The text books prepared by the HSC Boards do not conform to the above sequence in Std.11 & 12. This is one of the major reasons for students not following this master sequence to understand the subject of Physics which lands them into troubles with the subject.
4.  Solving any Problem in Physics involves a 4-step algorithm :
  • Identify key concepts & principles needed to solve the problem.
  • Model the problem in the form of mathematical equations. Get as many equations as unknowns.
  • Solve the equations to get the unknowns.
  • Interpret the answers in the language of Physics.
Students usually struggle in the first 2 steps in Physics. The remaining 2 steps are usually easy.
5. It is important to understand that any topic in Physics involves very few key principles. For example, in entire Particle Mechanics, there are only 4 key principles which the student must master to solve any problems viz. Kinematics, Force Dynamics, Work-Energy Theorem and Impulse-Momentum Theorem. Any problem in Particle Mechanics will involve one or more of the above 4 principles only. There is no 5th principle needed.
6. Another challenging part in solving Physics problems to students is how to use Calculus in solving problems in Physics. An important thing to realise is that those problems which involve a non-linear variation of one parameter with respect to the other would need Calculus techniques to handle them. If a set of parameters are cyclically linked in a phenomenon, then the use of Differential equations becomes necessary to analyse the same.
7. To master the art of solving Physics problems, a student must learn to visualise the situation in the problem and think which of the key concepts involved must be used. This type of thinking helps the student to initiate the process of problem solving.
8.  The student must learn to distinguish between the Physics part of the problem and the Mathematical part of the problem. Often, the student gets the Physics part correctly but gets stuck in the mathematical part. The Physics part has to be handled by using key Physics concepts and the Maths part by using key Mathematical tools. Which part in a particular problem is more challenging has to be clearly distinguished and tackled.
9. Solving large variety of problems in Physics and solving the same problem by various methods is an effective way to gain mastery in Physics.
10. For understanding theory, students must use classic text books in Physics like books written by HC Verma or by Resnick-Halliday or by Sears-Zemansky.
If the above points are kept in mind, the student will gain mastery in this fascinating subject of Physics which is the core of all Sciences.