The uncertainties over a common medical entrance exam have been laid to rest with the Supreme Court refraining from staying an ordinance, allowing states to conduct their own tests. President Pranab Mukherjee had given his assent to the ordinance, deferring implementation of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) for state governments and affiliated institutions by a year.
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Implication of the ordinance
The central government had brought in the ordinance by amending the Indian Medical Council Act 1956, which governs admission to MBBS and BDS seats in the country. As per the ordinance NEET will be universal from 2017-18 for both UG and PG admissions.
Excerpts of the ordinance that the Government of India brought out to allow states to conduct their own medical entrance examinations for 2016-17, overturning an earlier order by the SC.
A year’s relaxation has been granted this year, citing three main reasons. Firstly, students were left with very less time to prepare and secondly, the state governments raised concern over the variance in CBSE and state board syllabuses. The third reason was the difference in the medium of language in which the central test is conducted. In a recent meeting with the Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J P Nadda 14 states had sought time to switch to a common national-level test.
What is NEET?
NEET is the new national-level entrance exam introduced for UG medical course like MBBS, BDS etc. and postgraduate courses like MS, MD etc.
Presently there are at least 450 medical colleges across the country offering more than 52,000 seats through nearly 80 entrance exams, spread over two months. There was demand for a common entrance exam to save time and money of students.
A major breakthrough came in the year 2010 when the union government introduced NEET, but it was struck down by the Supreme Court in 2013. Now, reviewing its previous order, the Supreme Court has allowed NEET to be conducted this year.
The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) has been entrusted with the task of conducting NEET, which it had conducted in the year 2013-14. It was conducted in English and Hindi.
Who is in, who is out
Seven states and one Union Territory (Bihar, Himachal Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Rajasthan, Manipur, Odisha and Chandigarh) have agreed to go ahead with NEET this year.
In the run up to NEET five states (Karnataka, Gujarat, Maharashtra, Kerala and Tripura) had conducted their own entrance examinations for medical courses and they get exemption from NEET this year.
Amidst the ongoing confusion states like Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, Uttar Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Assam, Punjab and West Bengal delayed their entrance exams. The central government has given these states option to either go with NEET or have the option of conducting their own tests this year.
The case for Tamil Nadu and Puducherry is different as they do not conduct separate exams for medical and dental courses, and they follow their own procedure of admitting students on the basis of Class XII marks.
“The purpose of the ordinance is to provide a firm statutory status to the concept of uniform entrance exam for all UG and PG admissions in medical/dental Colleges while providing a relaxation to the state governments in relation to only UG admissions for this year (2016-17) in view of their difficulties,” states Union Health and Family Welfare Minister J P Nadda.
The purpose of the ordinance is to provide a firm statutory status to the concept of uniform entrance examination for all undergraduate and postgraduate admissions in Medical/Dental Colleges while providing a relaxation to the state governments in relation to only UG admissions for this year (2016-17) in view of their difficulties.
Reasons for postponing NEET
The Union Health Minister said that the exemption to some state governments from NEET is only for a year. This was requested by the states at the meeting of the state health ministers as some of the state-level examinations for admissions have already been conducted and students will have to appear for a second examination. In many of the states examinations are also conducted in regional languages. It was argued that it would be unfair to make all students take the examination in English or Hindi, particularly when only two months are left for NEET phase II. The syllabi for the state-level examinations are different from the All India PMT, which is going to be the basis for NEET phase II examination.
However, the ordinance will not have any bearing on NEET-UG phase 2, which will be held on July 24 (in case the date does not get postponed) as per the instruction of the Supreme Court of India in its May 9 order. Six lakh students took part in NEET Phase-1.
Many of the students who prepared for state-level tests feel that creating a new system of entrance test at the fag end of their preparation would tantamount to injustice as it would lead to confusion and also put undue pressure on them. Another concern for them is that CBSE students might perform well in NEET and the state board students will be at a disadvantage. Shikha Nair, an aspirant from Kerala said, “For past two years I and my friends have been working hard and preparing for board exams with medical profession as a career in mind. But, now I cannot compete with CBSE students in the common test based on their syllabus.” Like Shikha, many students from state boards feel it is unfair to implement NEET as it could shatter their MBBS dreams. However, there are others who believe that NEET is a good option as it takes away the necessity of taking many exams for ensuring admission. According to Aditi Sharma, a student from Delhi, “The number of chances has indeed gone down now. I was also preparing for examinations conducted by different medical colleges. Where earlier there used to be multiple options to go for, now the situation has changed. It’s like a do or die. Either you clear NEET or drop a year if MBBS happens to be your only aim.”
The number of chances has indeed gone down now. I was also preparing for examinations conducted by different medical colleges. Where earlier there used to be multiple options to go for, now the situation has changed. It’s like a do or die. Either you clear NEET or drop a year if MBBS happens to be your only aim.
Did the states err?
One of the senior doctors at Delhi’s Lady Hardinge Medical College who closely watched the developments said on conditions of anonymity, “The row over NEET started in the year 2010. Around that time many states had given undertakings that they require two years of time to upgrade their syllabus to the CBSE/NCERT syllabus during 2010 and 2011. Even after 2012 the state government agencies did not come up with the implementation of new syllabus. On the contrary they kept on finding excuses of language barrier etc. These state governments have never given the number or percentage of students taking their CETs in vernacular language nor have given any data on how many candidates who wrote the exam in their mother tongue got MBBS seats.”
Delhi’s Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal also wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi suggesting that the demands for overturning the SC order on NEET had got to do with many politicians running medical colleges of their own. Well, the row over NEET might have subsided for the time being, making the admissions more transparent, but the bigger malaise of politician-institution nexus and quality of education might take some more time to get corrected.
Stay tuned to medicine.careers360.com for more feature and updates on NEET