Of the 496 aspirants who cleared the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2021 — the sole entrance examination in the country to secure admissions to undergraduate medical and dental courses — are two Delhi government school students, Kushal Garg and Isha Jain, who scored 700 marks out of 720, putting them among the top scorers from across the country. Both students hail from modest backgrounds and said they took a drop year to prepare for the prestigious test.
On Wednesday, both chief minister Arvind Kejriwal and deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia took to Twitter to congratulate the two students as well as others who qualified for NEET.
“Wow! Sooo many students from Delhi govt schools have qualified NEET. Unimaginable till a few years back. I congratulate students, their parents and teachers. Together, u have shown that “It is possible”,” Kejriwal tweeted.
“History created by a Delhi government school student Kushal Garg. He has secured 700 marks out of 720. All India Rank 165, secured seat at AIIMS. Father 10th pass, carpenter. Mother 12th pass, House wife. Congratulations Kushal. Proud of you,” Sisodia tweeted Wednesday evening.
Last year, the government had announced that 569 students from Delhi government schools had qualified for the exams.
Speaking to Hindustan Times, Garg said he was confident of scoring 680 and above but had not expected 700, a score that may help him land a seat at the prestigious All India Institute Of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) Delhi. Garg said he was waiting for the counselling rounds to be held later this month to get clarity on the matter. The 18-year-old graduated from RPVV Kishan Ganj in 2020 and took a drop year to prepare for the medical entrance examination.
“Our school had tied up with a NGO which facilitated our NEET preparations. I travelled to Pune for the offline coaching in December and was there till this September. I wrote my papers from Pune. During that time, we were given our phones only once every month or two— I didn’t even get to know about my entire family contracting Covid during the second wave,” Garg said.
His father, a carpenter, suffered huge financial setbacks during Covid, but through it all, he ensured that his son’s coaching did not suffer. “Kushal has always been a hardworking student and we have tried to ensure that our financial difficulties do not affect our children’s education. Though we are yet to plan on how to fund his education further, we are happy that he has achieved this score,” said his mother Shashi Garg from their home in Shastri Park.
In the past couple of years, the Delhi government has been taking various measures to connect its students with alumni who have cleared competitive tests for sharing valuable feedback and tips. The government has also organised various coaching assistance programmes. For instance, this October, the government launched a programme for female medical aspirants belonging to reserved categories.
“Coaching facilities for government school students will go a long way in changing perceptions that such students cannot get into premiere engineering or medicine institutes,” Garg said.
Another Delhi government school student, Isha Jain, who graduated from RPVV Surajmal Vihar last year, scored 700 out of 720 and All India Rank 153. “Although I will not get into AIIMS, I hope to secure a seat at Maulana Azad Medical College. Covid hampered my preparations because everything moved online during the pandemic and there was social isolation for students like me,” she said, adding that it was her school teachers who helped her cleared NEET in her second attempt.
Head of the school Raj Pal Singh said, “Ten students from our school have cleared NEET this year. Ishika has always been a bright student and has been involved in co-curricular activities as well. This has been possible due to the hard work of our students. Many of our alumni, including a top virologist, held sessions with these students and instilled confidence in them. These sessions motivated our children and made them realise that government school students too can make a mark in the world.”
According to figures shared by the deputy CM on social media, government schools in Yamuna Vihar, Paschim Vihar, and IP Extension had 51, 28, and 16 students, respectively, who cleared the NEET. However, experts said that admission numbers would be far fewer.
In February, HT had reported that only around 10% of the 569 students who cleared NEET last year had scored the necessary marks for admission to government medical colleges. For government school students who hail from modest backgrounds, securing a seat in a private institute is difficult owing to the hefty fee charged by these institutes. A majority of such students are forced to retake the test for a better score or opt for other courses.
Dr Satendra Singh, faculty, University College Of Medical Sciences (UCMS), said, “Clearing the test is not linked to admission. They have just qualified the examination [NEET] and they have to appear for the counselling where they will be allotted different institutes. Multiple factors decide the admission, including the state or city of the institute — some students may not be keen on switching cities. Some might not be able to afford the fee of private medical institutes.”