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New admission regime for paramedical courses in Kerala

G. MAHADEVAN

The Kerala Government has decided to exclude four paramedical courses from the purview of the common entrance examinations to professional courses. The pros and cons of this move

— Photo: S. Gopakumar

New admission mode: Engineering-medical course aspirants involved in registering course-college options online at an Option Facilitation Centre last year. Four paramedical courses will now be excluded from the purview of the entrance examination system.

In what will hopefully be the first in a series of brush strokes that would redraw the contours of professional course admissions in Kerala, from this year candidates wishing to study B.Sc. nursing, B.Pharm., B.Sc.-MLT and the BPT courses would not have to write the entrance tests. They would be admitted on the basis of the marks scored in the qualifying examinations (Plus Two.) The allotments to these courses would not be done by the Commissioner for Entrance Examinations , but by the LBS Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.

The government could not have given a better New Year gift to the managements of colleges that offer these courses. For long, these managements have sought to recast, in some manner, the admissions to paramedical courses. While the government’s move has some very obvious plus points, it does raise some questions about the entrance examinations itself and the manner in which allotments are made to professional courses in the State. The government’s decision has also evoked protests from a section of students of these paramedical courses who, under the banner of a joint action council, are agitating for the restoration of the entrance tests for these courses.

But first, the sunny side of the story. This move will, at one stroke, delink admissions to the four paramedical courses from all the existing uncertainties and vagaries associated with admissions to professional colleges in Kerala.

Irrespective of any court battle or of any government-managements association discussions, the admissions to the four paramedical courses can be initiated as soon as the results of Plus Two (State syllabus), ISC and CBSE examinations are out. By extension, the classes for these can begin months earlier than they do now.

There would no change in the division of seats. Fifty per cent of seats would still be ‘government seats’, 35 per cent of the remaining seats would be the management quota and the rest, the NRI quota.

Managements have long lamented that when the dust settles on the annual allotment process, they are left with many vacant seats in their colleges. Consequent to many rounds of allotment, there is lateral movement of students; often from these paramedical courses to courses such as B.D.S. and MBBS. So, not only are many seats left unfilled, but the classes for these courses cannot also be started till the entire allotment process is completed. Admissions for the MBBS course have to be kept open at least till September 30 each year. This year, the sanctioning of an additional medical college led to an even longer allotment process. All this generates uncertainty in the minds of students, who, in turn, seek admissions in other States, the managements argue. This year too a good number of seats in government and self-financing nursing colleges remained unfilled at the close of admissions. The plight of pharmacy colleges or those that offer MLT is no different.

The government seems to agree with this logic. Furthermore, goes the government’s thinking, there is really no legal mandate that necessitates an entrance examination for these courses. “The Nursing Council or the Pharmacy Council does not insist on an entrance examination,” Health Minister P.K. Sreemathy pointed out to The Hindu EducationPlus, “so why should we have one? Just because there was some problem in the award of marks in the university or because an entrance examination came into being many years ago, should we continue assuming that we can’t give marks properly for our Plus Two courses? In our neighbouring States there is either no entrance examination at all, or there is no entrance for such paramedical courses. I am told that about 10,000 of our students are studying nursing in Madhya Pradesh alone. Why should that happen? Moreover many bright students who score well for the Plus Two fail to make it good in the entrance examinations for no fault of theirs. It is because they can’t afford the coaching to crack the entrance. Now, only those who wish genuinely to study nursing, pharmacy or MLT will apply for these courses,” she explained.

The government would soon set up a high-level committee to flesh out the new admission process. The principal advantage of the new scheme of admissions—as the Health Minister argued—is that applications for the four courses will primarily come from students who are interested in these courses. But is this not more of a fond wish than a practical possibility?

Unless the government prevents students from doing so, there might well be hundreds who apply for these paramedical courses and write the common entrance examinations as well.

After joining, say, the nursing course what if they get allotment for either B.D.S. or MBBS? Even then there would be a ‘lateral movement’ of students well after classes begin for these paramedical courses. Even then there would either be a second or third round of allotment or a free hand for the managements to fill up such seats. Anyhow the managements stand to gain from the ‘liquidated damages’ that the student has to pay if he or she wishes to leave the course after admission.

For the nursing course that would amount to Rs.50,000.

According to Ms. Sreemathy one of the main tasks of the high level committee would be to evolve a formula to ‘normalise’ the scores of students coming from the State syllabus, ISC and the CBSE. However, such a formula has already been suggested by the R.V.G. Menon committee that was set up by the government to suggest reforms in the entrance examinations. Not incidentally the R.V.G. Menon committee only suggested reforms in the entrance examinations and did not suggest doing away with these examinations. The government has, broadly, welcomed these recommendations.

Therefore, the argument that bright students are not able to make it to the paramedical courses because they cannot afford coaching to crack the entrance examinations begs the question, ‘is this not applicable to engineering, MBBS, B.D.S. and other allied medical courses as well?’ So why not do away with the entrance examination in total? So far, the government has given no indication that it plans to do away with these tests.

“If students are opting to study nursing in other States because of delays in admissions here, why can’t the government ensure that admissions are done on time?,” asked a former official of the office of the Commissioner for Entrance Examinations.

“Is it not because we go on discussing with the managements about fee that all this uncertainty is created? If you feel that the entrance tests are flawed, then factor in the Plus Two marks as well. That is what the R.V.G. Menon committee recommended. The reasons why many years ago the High Court asked for an entrance test, are relevant even today,” he explained.

Only an analysis of this year’s admission data for the four paramedical courses can prove conclusively whether the government’s logic for delinking these courses from the Common Entrance Examinations was sound. Moreover, if this delinking is not part of a broader process of reform of the entrance tests, the decision runs the risk of being seen as a governmental cave-in to the interests of private managements.

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