NEET Controversy – Reasons and Way Forward- Explained Pointwise

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In the recently declared result, 67 candidates who secured the top rank with the maximum possible score of 720 out of 720 in the recently held NEET examination. In the previous five years, the maximum number of toppers scoring 720 was just three. Around 1,500 candidates were awarded “grace marks” for “loss of time” during the exam, raising questions about the fairness and consistency of the evaluation process.

Many people, including politicians and some candidates, want the NEET results to be checked again or even for the exam to be cancelled due to the controversies and possible unfairness. To deal with this, the NTA and the Education Ministry constituted a 4 members committee to look into the results of those who got extra marks. The NEET controversy has once again reignited debates around issues like the suitability of the examination format, the impact of coaching institutes, and the need for a more holistic and equitable assessment system for medical admissions in India.

What is the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)?

1) Introduction-The NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) is an entrance examination for students who wish to pursue undergraduate medical courses (MBBS/BDS) and postgraduate courses (MD/MS) in government or private medical colleges.

2) Conducting Body-The exam is conducted by National Testing Agency (NTA). It is an autonomous body, constituted under the Ministry of Education.

3) Languages-The NEET exam is conducted in offline mode and in 13 languages. Candidates can select the question paper medium from the following languages: English, Hindi, Assamese, Bengali, Gujarati, Malayalam, Kannada, Marathi, Odia, Tamil, Telugu, Urdu, or Punjabi.

What is the significance of NEET Examination?

1) Single Entrance Test for Medical Admissions-It serves as the single entrance test for admission to undergraduate medical (MBBS), dental (BDS), and other allied courses like AYUSH in government and private medical colleges across India. This test helps evaluate medical aspirants across the country in a consistent and standardized way.

2) Regulating Medical Education Quality-It ensures that students entering the medical field meet a certain level of quality and merit. By using a single entrance test for evaluation, it aims to uphold the quality of medical education and ensure that future healthcare professionals are competent.

3) Addressing Admission Malpractices-Before NEET, each state or institution used to conduct its own entrance tests for medical college admissions. This often resulted in problems like cheating, capitation fees, and a lack of transparency. Bringing all exams under the National Testing Agency (NTA) reduces these issues by making the process more centralized, transparent, and less prone to corruption or misconduct.

4) Upholding Reservation Policies-It acts as a basis for distributing seats in medical colleges, which includes enforcing reservation policies for various student groups like economically disadvantaged sections or scheduled castes and tribes. This has been upheld by the Supreme Court in the case of Christian Medical College, Vellore v. Union of India.

5) Enhancing Global Recognition of Indian Medical Degrees– NEET meets global standards for medical entrance exams, making Indian medical degrees more credible worldwide. This helps Indian medical graduates study more, get licenses, or work abroad, boosting India’s reputation in healthcare globally.

8) Efficiency and CostEffectiveness– It simplifies the admissions process by removing the necessity of conducting multiple entrance exams by states and institutions. This saves time, money, and effort for both students and educational bodies.

What are the Resons behind NEET Controversy?

1) Undermine Federal Structure and State Autonomy– NEET undermines the federal structure by removing states’ authority to admit students to government medical colleges. Education falls under state jurisdiction, allowing them to regulate education for state universities. NEET’s introduction, for admission to all medical colleges, violates this federal structure and states’ autonomy in educational decisions.

2) Syllabus Disparity-NEET’s syllabus may not align exactly with what state boards teach, making it difficult for students to adjust to the exam format. This can make it tougher for students from state boards compared to those from CBSE or ICSE boards. The Rajan committee, set up by the Tamil Nadu government, pointed this out as well.

3) Equity and Representation Concerns-Reports like the Rajan Committee  show that after NEET started, fewer students from rural areas, Tamil medium schools, low-income families, and Tamil Nadu state board schools got admission into medical colleges.  This raises concerns about NEET’s impact on equitable representation and social justice.This is main reason that Tamilnadu government has been opposing this mode of exam since its introduction.

4) Language Barrier-NEET is conducted only in a few languages like English, Hindi, and some regional languages. This poses a challenge for students from other regional languages, which are not covered under the current exam pattern.

5) Translation Errors-Even though the test is conducted in 13 languages, they are still many translation errors. For ex-Neet 2021 had a translation error in a Physics Question. Similarly, In the 2018 NEET, as many as 49 questions had errors in Tamil translation. This led to a Madras High Court order to award four marks for each of the 49 wrongly translated questions for all 1.07 lakh candidates who appeared NEET in the Tamil Language.

6) Stress and Mental Health Concerns-The fierce competition and stress to excel in NEET adversely impact the mental health and overall well-being of students. This strain can lead to tragic outcomes such as suicides. For ex-Suicides of students in Kota.

7) Dominance of Coaching IndustriesThe dependency of students on coaching institutes for qualifying NEET examination raises concerns about the commercialization of education. These institutes charge substantial fees and further deepen the disparity between advantaged and disadvantaged students. As per Rajan committee report,99% of students who gained admission in 2019-20 had taken coaching. This underscores the dominance of coaching industries.

8) Limitations of MCQ-based Mass Testing-Well-designed MCQs can probe capacities like reasoning and judgment of the students. However, they cannot assess qualities like reflection and critical thinking, which are of paramount importance for professions like medicine.

9) Transparency and FairnessMany young people have felt unfairly judged over time. Fair evaluation isn’t just about morals; it’s also an important condition for ensuring equity. The recent controversy over the 2023 NEET results has raised concerns about the transparency and fairness of the evaluation process.

10) Logistical Challenges-Conducting a nationwide exam for over 2 million applicants poses logistical challenges in ensuring smooth conduct, addressing technical glitches, and preventing irregularities like paper leaks. For ex-allegation of paper leaks in Bihar.

What should be done to resolve NEET Controversy?

1) Addressing Socioeconomic Disparities- Implement measures to provide equal opportunities for students from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. This could include providing financial assistance, scholarships, and coaching support to economically disadvantaged students.

2) Language Accessibility-Conduct NEET exams in multiple languages to accommodate students from different linguistic backgrounds. This would help reduce the language barrier and ensure that all students have a fair chance of performing well in the exam, regardless of their language proficiency.

3) Alignment of Curricula-There is a need to ensure alignment between NEET syllabus and various state board curricula to minimize disparities in preparation among students from different educational backgrounds. Collaboration between central and state education boards can help achieve this alignment.

4) Focus on Critical Thinking Skills– NEET exam pattern should be revised to include questions that assess reflection, critical thinking and practical knowledge relevant to medical education and practice.

5) Implement Rajan Committee Recommendations-

A) It suggests using “normalized” Higher secondary scores to ensure fairness across different boards.

B)It also suggests recognizing socio-economic and other obstacles that could impact performance in the higher secondary exam and modifying scores accordingly using an “adversity score” system.

6) Regulation of Coaching Industries-There must be some form of regulations on charging of exorbitant fees by private coaching institutions. They must be mandated to organise seminars and mental health workshops to minimize negativity among students.

7) Multi-Stakeholders Engagement:-There is a need to engage stakeholders, including students, parents, educators, policymakers, and medical professionals to develop solutions that address the needs and concerns of all stakeholders.

8) Continuous Evaluation and Improvement-There is a need to continuously evaluate and improve the NEET examination system, monitor reforms, gather stakeholder feedback, and adjust policies to maintain exam effectiveness and integrity.

9) Robust Grievance Redressal Mechanisms-There should be establishment of robust grievance redressal  system for candidates to raise concerns and have them addressed in a timely manner. Judicial oversight can be encouraged to ensure fairness and trust in the process.

Read more-Indian Express

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