National Eligibility cum Entrance Test was first introduced in 2012 by CBSE and Medical Council of India as a single entrance exam for admissions into MBBS and BDS courses offered by the medical colleges across the country. However, due to all the repercussions around the test, it was delayed by a year and was at last conducted in May 2013, for the very first time.
The rationale behind introducing the exam was to make the whole process more transparent and streamlined, so that unfair practices being conducted by some private players and corrupt sections could be stopped. But, many institutes opposed this new mechanism of admissions and more than 100 petitions were filed against the test. After hearing the petitioners, the Supreme Court announced that the test was unconstitutional and NEET was scrapped. This was done citing the reason that admission to educational institutes should be a matter under decision of the institutes/states themselves, rather than that of centre.
However, NEET was reintroduced in May, 2016 and the test restored itself back as the single entrance examination for medical admissions. In the same year, the test was conducted twice, so that the candidates who missed the test due to all prevailing confusions could secure admissions. The Supreme Court ruled out the pleas of state government and private institutions to conduct a separate exam, thus giving monopoly to NEET.
Tamil Nadu’s stand against NEET
Although the test is being opposed by many states including West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Gujarat and Maharashtra, the prime mover state has been Tamil Nadu. It has been speaking against this central testing system right from the introduction of its very idea.
In Tamil Nadu, the admissions (before NEET) were generally done on the basis of marks secured by candidates in Class 12 boards. Even when the state had an entrance test for admissions during 2005-06, marks secured by candidates in their board examination were still considered and carried certain weightage.
The state has been particularly concerned about other states’ students taking away seats from local students in Tamil Nadu’s institutes. Speaking on the matter, AnbumaniRamadoss, leader of PMK said,” We will spend out people’s money, build quality institutions. You will come from other states, take away seats under NEET, study and go back to your own state. Why should we run such institutes and spend our people’s money on you?”
Other concerns and objections regarding the introduction of a single, centralized test included:
Education is a State Subject, not Centre’s
One major reason for opposing NEET is letting states and private institutions have more autonomy on their admission process. The line of reasoning behind this is that if state government or private person is building a college or institute and is spending its time, money and effort on it, then why should not it control its admission process as well.
Even in 2013, the test was ruled out as it infringed upon the right of states to controleducation. The similar line of reasoning still continues in states.
Difference in Syllabus
NEET is conducted by CBSE and thus, it is heavily skewed towards CBSE syllabus. There are differences between syllabi notified by regional boards and that by CBSE, makingit advantageous for those studying under CBSE.However, people in favour of exam say that it is based on NCERT and not on CBSE.
The Language Barrier
Most students studying under regional boards study in regional language, and are unable to perform well in Hindi/English paper. NEET is mostly dominated by candidates appearing for the exam in either in English or Hindi, which makes it difficult for candidates from vernacular backgrounds to ace the exam.
Until last year, the paper was conducted in 10 different languages, which included regional languages as well. But the question papers in regional languages were different from those in English, and many candidates found that the regional question papers were of higher level of difficulty than English language paper. This incident gave the issue new heights and the protests increased further.
But in a recent announcement, it has been made clear that all the papers will be a mere translation of English language’s paper, and thus no difference in level of difficulty will be there.
School grades are a better benchmark
Another reason put forward by states is that the performance of a candidate in board exam is a better benchmark, rather than a single day test. Since a candidate works hard for a whole year to secure good well in Class 12, why have an additional test to test him/her further.
Also, if the candidate is unable to perform well on that particular day, it can ruin his/her dream of getting into his desired institute. Tamil Nadu has been providing admissions on the basis of Class 12 scores and has maintained quality education in its institutes, proving that things can be done well without NEET as well.
Many of the arguments made by states are definitely worth considering. It is always difficult for state board student to quickly adapt himself or herself to this highly competitive NEET environment.
Also, the role played by coaching institutes is also debatable. Many candidates who do not perform well in 12th boards are doing well in NEET just because they have joined a coaching centre. It becomes a little unfair to those students who work hard for two years to score well in boards. Also, since many rural aspirants cannot afford coaching due to economical and logistical constraints, cracking NEET is also becoming a game of the rich.
MCI and CBSE are making changes in NEET to make the exam as fair and neutral as possible. Will it turn out to be a defining move for country’s medical education standards, this question still remains unanswered.