Recent events prompt experts to revisit issue of replacing NEET with state CET
The argument between a national entrance exam for medical admissions versus a state-level entrance exam has for long been debated and the recent happenings have only made this debate stronger.
Days after the Bombay high court (HC) directed the National Testing Agency (NTA) – the nodal examination authority – to conduct a fresh round of entrance exam for two students in the country who were wronged the first time, more and more people are questioning the “haphazard manner” in which an entrance exam of such great value is being conducted year after year.
“This is not the first time that students have been affected due to lack of knowledge among exam invigilators. NTA has rarely ever trained personnel across the country before holding such an important exam and this has resulted in the current situation,” said Sudha Shenoy, parent and activist. She added that while two students approached HC, several others have faced issues of delay in being handed over the answer booklet or answer papers being early snatching away on the examination day.
“Such issues might sound frivolous to the examiners but for students who have been preparing for an exam for two years or more, every minute of that examination counts and errors on part of the invigilators costs students their future,” she added.
The National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is an all-India medical and dental entrance exam that was initiated in 2016 by the Central government by quashing all state-held common entrance tests (CET) to bring into effect a uniform entrance test. This move was challenged by several state governments in 2016, but to no avail.
In September, the Tamil Nadu (TN) Assembly passed a bill seeking permanent exemption to medical aspirants from the state from NEET. The Tamil Nadu Admission to Undergraduate Medical Degree Courses Bill, 2021, was supported by several political parties in the state and was introduced after a 19-year old medical aspirant died by suicide at his home hours before NEET was conducted on September 11.
Days after the TN Assembly decision, Maharashtra minister for medical education Amit Deshmukh suggested that the government will review the all-India entrance exam and decide whether it is good for students. He responded to a letter written by a local leader addressed to chief minister Uddhav Thackeray, requesting scrapping of NEET, and conducting of medical admissions based on class 12 scores instead.
“Any examination which involves 15-16 lakh students cannot and should not be conducted by a central authority. For nearly 16 years before NEET was introduced, every state conducted its own entrance exam to fill up 85% seats under state quota and never faced trouble. I think it’s time to go back to the old model and put an end to the misery this exam is causing to medical aspirants,” said Dr TP Lahane, former director of the state Directorate of Medical Education and Research (DMER).
He added that an all-India entrance exam can be conducted for those aiming for the 15% all-India quota (AIQ) seats while admissions to state quota seats be decided based on state CETs.
While many stakeholders, including students and parents, agree with this stand, some still feel NEET should stay.
“Students from state boards took a couple of years to be prepared and stand at par with fellow students from central boards because NEET syllabus was based on NCERT (National Council of Educational Research and Training) syllabus. To make changes once again will mean bringing sudden changes, which will be unfair to students who are already quite stressed preparing for such competitive exams,” said Akriti Patel, parent of a medical student.