New Delhi: A steady rise has been noticed in the number of students registering for the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), which is held for admission to medical and dental courses in India.
According to data shared by the National Testing Agency (NTA), which conducts the entrance test, 16.14 lakh students have registered for the exam this year — the highest in the last five years. This number was 15.97 lakh in 2020, 15.19 lakh in 2019, 13.26 lakh in 2018 and 11.38 lakh in 2017.
In these five years, registrations have risen by 42 per cent.
According to experts, factors like additional medical seats have played a major role, but there is also a link to the Covid-19 pandemic over the last couple of years.
“The number of medical aspirants has been on the rise constantly because of a number of reasons, including the lowering scope in engineering. However, Covid has given a big push to the numbers because people realise that it is very important to have a medico in the family,” said B. Srinivas, Additional Director General, Medical Education, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) told ThePrint.
“The decreasing scope in engineering has also diverted science students to pursue medicine. If they go for medicine, they can have the assurance that they can start their own practice if they do not get a job,” he added.
Falling interest in engineering discipline?
Vivek Pandey, a medical education counsellor and a final-year MBBS student, agrees with Srinivas’s assessment.
“The pandemic is very recent and it has, of course, led to an increased interest in pursuing medical education. But one of the biggest reasons that more students want to pursue medicine is because of the decreasing scope in engineering,” said Pandey. “More and more science students that I counsel go to medicine instead of engineering as they see more scope over there.”
Various government and private agencies have discussed the declining scope of engineering education in the country in the last few years.
This also led the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) to slash seats across engineering colleges. In 2020, the council declared that no new engineering colleges will be allowed to open in the 2021-22 academic year.
Rise in medical seats
In contrast, medical seats have seen a rise in the last few years. According to MoHFW data, there were 54,348 medical seats in 404 public and private colleges in 2014-15. These numbers rose to 83,075 and 554, respectively, in the session 2021-22.
Rajeev Sood, Dean, Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER), Ram Manohar Lohia Hospital believes this rise in medical seats is a big factor behind the uptick in NEET registrations.
“Number of medical seats have increased in the last few years, which is why we see more students applying now. The number of colleges is also more now, because the ones that were not recognised during the Medical Council of India (MCI) have now been recognised under National Medical Council (NMC),” he told ThePrint.
In 2020, NMC replaced MCI as the body that sets standards for medical education in the country.
Sood added that Covid is not the main reason behind higher applications, but is definitely an additional factor.
(Edited by Amit Upadhyaya)