Phoenix NEET Academy proves that rural kids can crack the test

Students at Phoenix NEET Academy.

Chennai: The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) has been a subject of controversy ever since it was introduced.

Amid several arguments stating that the move is unfavourable to students of State Board institutions and the underprivileged, here is Phoenix NEET Academy, a not-for-profit organisation in Virugambakkam, that handpicked 30 people from villages and towns for training and has achieved 100 per cent results.

Hailing from a disadvantaged background, the students of the academy have scored 300 and above.
Speaking about their performance, the institute’s chief coordinator, Dr Madan Gunasekaran, said, “Although all the students have cracked the examination, I’m unsure if everyone would be admitted to MBBS course, but BDS course is possible. But it is a testimony to the fact that children like them, who have the capacity to do well in State Board exams, can excel in competitive examinations like NEET if given proper training.”

He stated that the students would definitely be placed in private colleges for pursuing MBBS; however, they many not be able to meet the financial requirements. “Once the government releases the rank list, if the majority candidates are in a similar situation, they would be placed in institutions like Thoothukudi Medical College,” Dr Madan added.

He pointed out the absence of a single education system but the conduct of a common test for enrolling into a specific course as the reason for the State not accepting the exam.

“In their first attempt last year, their scores were below 100, but now, after coaching them, they are able to crack it. The syllabus is tailor-made and compiled by our team, suiting the needs of NEET. It calls for having a system that does not create any disparity among communities,” he said.

Last year, the team implemented ‘Super 30’ project where they selected 30 deserving medical aspirants across the State, based on several criteria. The screening process was done by Agaram Foundation (run by actor Suriya to help educate poor students), following which Dr Gunasekaran and his team provided them with accommodation, food and other needs in Chennai for a year.

“Interactive materials for teaching the concepts and tests were conducted regularly. To keep the students motivated, we invited speakers from renowned institutions,” said Dr Madan, on teaching methodology.

Founded by Dr Gunasekaran, Dr Madan’s father and a former dean of Kilpauk Medical College, and at present the dean of a private medical college, it was the death of Anitha in 2017 at Ariyalur that led to the inception of the academy that focuses on training medical aspirants from Tamilnadu without any strings attached.

Last year, the institute conducted a crash course for 390 students who cannot enrol in private training institutions and 96 per cent cleared NEET that propelled the small team to provide one-year training.

Asked about funds, Dr Madan, who has run up debts, said, “All of us pooled in the funds required and for the next batch, we plan to approach companies that fund CSR projects.”

Giving a place to stay and feeding the students is a bit challenge. Dr Madan, who comes from a family of doctors, handled this issue with his own resources. The students were accommodated in houses at Virugambakkam and Valasaravakkam. The 22 girls were given a house at Virugambakkam and a warden to keep an eye on them. There were eight male students, some of whom were given shelter in Dr Madan’s house for the year. One of the girl students of the latest batch, from Dharmapuri, raised by a single parent, said with feeling that whether she cracks NEET or not, she was blessed to have three meals a day at the academy!


Bhavani Prabhakar