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Cheating the system

The road to a medical education is paved with coaching institutes and dummy schools, which enable a student to pass class 11 and 12 without compulsory attendance. This gives them an unfair advantage in NEET

Every year, thousands of students across India appear for the NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) exams. Hundreds of hours of preparation precede the pre-medical test that will give them admission into medical colleges. But not every parent thinks their wards can take the pressure. Many ‘cheat’ by enrolling their children in dummy schools.

Dummy schools are basically regular schools which offer medical aspirants admission but do not make attendance mandatory. They ‘waive off’ the requirement of 75 per cent compulsory attendance of a student and practical exams for a fee, which is much more than a regular school would demand.

The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) doesn’t have prescribed guidelines in place which may suggest that a dummy school is illegal, but neither do they say that is legal. However, it is clear that the attendance rules in the dummy schools save a student the trouble of pursuing regular schooling while preparing for the NEET exam.

To know the intricacies of the situation and how the dummy school culture works, Patriot investigated many coaching institutes to get a clear picture of the process.

First Patriot went to a coaching institute which is touted by medical aspirants as one of the best coaching institutes in the country for NEET exams. The institute, which is situated on a busy road in South Extension, offers 2-4 years of coaching to students.

A lady sitting behind one of the many desks of the institute gives out all the details. For a class 11th student, two years coaching prior to the NEET exam is recommended by the institute. A sum of Rs 3,65,018 is the amount one has to pay to get admission in the institute. Among many questions put to her slips in the crucial one: Do you have a tie-up with a dummy school? The lady nods her head, but doesn’t elaborate. After further persuasion, she answers the question with the telling statement: “We do help the students with admission in dummy schools but for that you need to first take admission in our institute. Then only further information will be provided to you.”

Surely, if an institute of such huge standing is helping its students to take admission in dummy schools, smaller institutes must also be having tie-ups with other dummy schools.

After searching for more such institutes on education forums and Quora, a clue was found wherein a person asked online for a CBSE-affiliated school. The first answer was by a person who owns an institute which helps its students to get admission in a dummy school.

Patriot went on to visit another institute situated in a neighbourhood in Dwarka Sector 5, where a few other institutes sharing walls with one another make the lane seem like a hub for coaching centres. A man in his thirties mans the reception. He is told that the inquiry is for a brother who studies is class 11, wants to prepare for NEET exam and also wants admission in a dummy school. The person very enthusiastically sells his institute’s course.

“We have a tie-up with over 40 schools in Delhi only. Chances of succeeding in NEET exams by enrolling in a dummy school are 80% higher than for a regular schoolgoing kid,” the man explains. Asked him about the names of these schools, he refuses, saying, “Names can only be given once your brother takes admission.” He hints that there is one such school in Dwarka which also acts as a dummy school.

He says a student doesn’t need to go to the school for half-yearly exams and can give them sitting in the coaching centre. However, for Class 12, students will need to go to a regular CBSE exam centre.

Speaking of the fee structure, he says the fee is approximately Rs 90,000 for Class 11 and 12. He even claimed that to get admission in a highly reputed school in the capital, one has to pay Rs 3.5 lakh. He proudly recommended that one should only take admission in a dummy school because it provides the right balance of time to study. He says that otherwise, the chances of succeeding in the exam for a regular schoolgoing student is not more than 20 per cent.

Another institute in Lakshmi Nagar revealed the same modus operandi. They also have a tie-up with one of the dummy schools in Dwarka. This institute charges Rs 80,000 for two years of education in a dummy school. This seems to be a standard fee structure, which almost all of the institutes Patriot spoke to have in common.

Although many coaching institutes indirectly promote taking admissions in dummy schools, there is one person running a coaching institute in Kingsway Camp, North Delhi, who seems to have a different opinion. While speaking about dummy school admissions, he gave an example of his own daughter who’s in Class 12 and wants to study in a non-attending school. He doesn’t approve of the idea. For him, school life comes only once, and doesn’t want his daughter to follow the footsteps of her peers. “It’s completely fine if she doesn’t get admission on the first attempt. I don’t want her to give in to the pressure and take admission in a dummy school,” says the person.

So what’s wrong with not continuing to attend school? Dr Dheerendra Kumar, a psychologist, has the answers. He breaks down the effects of not attending a regular school on students in three parts. First: loss of opportunity for social interaction. He says, “Not going to school and indulging in social interaction will significantly reduce the development of social interactions.

This results in poor social skills. Second, it also affects the social tasks which include peers. He says it is at this very age of 16-17 that a person’s independent identity develops. According to him, the kind of environment one gets in coaching institutes is very structured, and there’s no space for randomness.

“If a student only goes to coaching institutes then it will affect his/her state of mind. Such a child will not be able to face unexpected challenges as strongly as a regular schoolgoing kid will,” added Dr. Kumar.

He says he has seen cases of students going into depression and having severe anxiety because they dedicate all their time to the coaching centres, and not for a balanced life. Their physical strength also gets reduced, as in school you at least have dedicated hours for sports activities.

Because some students take admission in dummy schools, they have an edge over regular school students. Tripti Sharan, a gynaecologist by profession, has even complained to the Deputy Chief Minister of Delhi Manish Sisodia. She wrote to the Deputy CM that the culture of dummy schools in Delhi is leading to unfair competition among students appearing for NEET Exam.

“There are students from other states who have domicile of their state and Delhi’s too. They have an edge over regular school-going students because they take admission in Dummy schools,” says Dr Sharan.

According to her, the competition should be fair and equal, and the Directorate of Education of Delhi government should make serious amends to stop the dummy schools from operating without impunity.

Patriot also reached out to the CBSE’s Public Relations Officer, who replied, “The matter pertains to Directorate of Education which is the recognising body for all schools of any affiliation.”

Now it is up to the Directorate of Education to decide the fate of these dummy schools. In Chandigarh, the administration recently barred coaching centres from operating in the daytime, which means the children studying in dummy schools can only take coaching in the same hours as regular school students. Perhaps a similar move could lead to fair competition in Delhi too.