Insights into Editorial: NEET breather for States as President signs ordinance

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Insights into Editorial: NEET breather for States as President signs ordinance

26 May 2016

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Summary:

President Pranab Mukherjee recently gave his assent to the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test ordinance. According to this, all postgraduate (PG) admissions will be done through NEET this year. However, for undergraduate (UG) courses, an exemption has been made for ‘State quota’ seats in government medical colleges and private institutions for this academic session.

  • The ordinance is aimed at “partially” overturning the Supreme Court order.
  • States now have the option of either conducting their own exam or be part of the NEET to fill 85% of the Under Graduate (UG) medical and dental seats. 15% of the remaining seats will be filled through NEET route by all India counseling.

Background:

There was confusion, and anxiety, after the Supreme Court suddenly decided that the NEET should be the sole basis for medical and dental college admissions from this year onwards. Several State governments objected to NEET, arguing that its implementation would denude them of the power to regulate admission to institutions run by them, as well as to private institutions within their jurisdiction. Some States have their own legislation governing admission and had strong objections to the prescriptive approach underlying NEET. The Centre clearly had no option after the State governments brought pressure on it and hence brought this ordinance.

What is NEET?

In order to ensure that there is a common platform for all aspirants of graduate and undergraduate medical and dental courses across the country, a common examination for admission to all government, private, state, deemed universities/colleges of the country would be conducted under AIPMT. This examination would be conducted for 85% of the seats, whereas the remaining 15% would be reserved for management quota. Medical Council of India (MCI), in 2013, notified single entrance examination for admission to MBBS and postgraduate medical courses. Through the scores of NEET, aspirants could apply for admission to any college of their choosing across the country. This was, however, not applicable to the states of Andhra Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana and Tamil Nadu.

Recent controversy:

Several states including Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu, in 2013, opposed NEET saying it infringed on their rights as education is a subject in the state list.

  • The Supreme Court passed a judgement calling the test ‘unconstitutional’ as it deprived state-run universities and colleges the right to evaluate students on criteria set by them.
  • However, in April 2016, the Supreme Court decideded to hear the MCI petition and, the apex court gave a green signal to a single common medical entrance test just before two days of the All India Pre-Medical/Pre-Dental Test (AIPMT), which is currently considered as NEET Phase 1.
  • For the academic year 2016-17, the SC agreed on holding the NEET in two phases. For the students who did not appear in the first phase of examination, AIPMT examination will be considered as NEET 1 and NEET 2.
  • The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) conducted the first phase of NEET, at least six lakh candidates appeared for the examination.
  • The SC cleared the confusion that private colleges would not be allowed to conduct separate exams for medical admissions.
  • Also, the plea filed by the state governments and minority institutions, to allow them to hold separate entrance examination for MBBS and BDS courses for the current year, was rejected by the SC.

A common exam sounds like a good idea, so why oppose something that standardizes the procedure?

Students in Tamil Nadu who seek admission to MBBS course are admitted on the basis of their 12th standard final examination marks. A similar criterion is followed in Kerala as well. These States believe that there’s a huge difference, in terms of content, in the State and Central Board’s syllabus.

Hence, these states believe that the NEET “would adversely affect the interests of students in the State, in particular those from weaker sections and from rural areas and as it infringes upon the State’s right to determine the admission policies to medical educational institutions.”

Why NEET is good?

  • Bottom line of NEET is One Nation, One Exam, One exam for admissions into all the Post graduate Medical courses in the country (except AIIMS, PGIMER, JIPMER).
  • In NEET there is no difference in Syllabi for any of the State graduates as all MBBS graduates have a unified course curriculum.
  • A student can write a single exam and apply to different Universities with same test score, where merit list will be prepared by the universities with all the students applied.
  • Selling of Seats in Open market for Crores of rupees can be prevented as all the seats will only be filled through NEET.

Then, is NEET in its present form fair?

Clearly, ‘No.’ In its present form with the CBSE/NCERT syllabus as its backbone the NEET exam is clearly an unfair one for students from State Boards and from rural areas where the standards may be lower. The major grouse of various states opposing NEET is that a common syllabus must be worked out before implementing NEET and this is a valid argument. Further the exam must be held in multiple languages and this has been acceded to by the Government.

Why are various State Governments opposing NEET?

State Governments see NEET as an infringement on the rights of States. They also feel that it will be disadvantageous to students from state Board schools and those from rural areas where the standards may not be as high as CBSE. So States argue that NEET may end up hurting their students and benefiting the CBSE students who may not be from their states or may be urban elite.

Way ahead:

A common national test for professional courses is faultless, in principle. In this connection, it will address the problem of private institutions selling medical courses at astronomical prices to candidates who may lack aptitude. Yet, it is important that the ground is properly prepared before the implementation of a common test.

  • State governments have to be convinced that their socio-economic priorities will not be affected by centralised regulation of admissions, and that regional disparities in syllabi and linguistic differences will be adequately resolved.
  • There is also a larger legal issue since there are Supreme Court judgments that have underlined the unfettered right of unaided, minority institutions to regulate their own admissions processes, subject to their being fair, transparent and non-exploitative. These contradictions need to be ironed out.
  • Also, the political executive has to be allowed to assess the feasibility of having a common national test this year instead of ruling on what is essentially an executive decision. A perfect pan-Indian medical admission system needs to be carefully crafted in the present environment, not rammed home by judicial fiat.