Editorial: NEET Is Good, Make It Foolproof

Editorial: NEET Is Good, Make It Foolproof

FPJ EditorialUpdated: Wednesday, June 19, 2024, 08:27 PM IST
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Representational Image | PTI

The Supreme Court on Tuesday admonished the authorities, asserting that even a 0.001 percent negligence in conducting National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET-UG) 2024 was highly regrettable. It should simply not occur. A vacation bench of the apex court was hearing petitions by a group of aggrieved students against the leakage of the medical entrance examination paper. Also linked was the complaint of a batch of examinees who were denied the prescribed 3 hours and 20 minutes full time for the test and were later awarded by the National Testing Agency compensatory marks. On challenge in court, the grace marks were withdrawn. A fresh test was now to be conducted for the affected 1,563 students. Over 24 lakh candidates seeking admission in various medical colleges all over the country had taken this year’s test in 4,750 centres in 571 cities on May 5. This included 14 cities abroad. Its sanctity was marred by reports of paper leak and other corrupt practices such as proxy examinees at some centres. The court on Tuesday frowned upon such malpractices which were ultimately “deleterious to society”. It told the NTA to stand firm. “If there is a mistake, say yes, there is a mistake. At least that will inspire confidence.”

Though NET has rarely been free of glitches and malpractices, over the years efforts were made to make it foolproof. But given the ambitious nature of the all-India tests and the sheer logistics involved, keeping it leak-proof across the examination centres all over the country entailed a mind-boggling effort. Aside from the scope for human effort faltering at some stage, corrupt elements breaching the secrecy of the test at some level of preparations cannot be always ruled out. One reason several state governments had opposed the uniform nation-wide tests lay in the ever-present glitches marring it and thus bringing into dispute the entire exercise. In the particular case before the apex court it was disclosed that unusually large number of students had scored optimum possible marks. The NTA clarified that this year’s paper was rather easy and therefore quite a few students were able to score optimum possible marks. Again, lack of uniformity in awarding marks too worked against groups of examinees in some centres as against others where marking was rather liberal. Given that the teaching standards vary from region to region and city to city, a nation-wide test may not be the best way to gauge the intrinsic intelligence and grasp of students. Of course, the oft-heard charge that exams in particular for admissions into medical and engineering colleges remain a lottery, with students fortunate to have mugged the very questions appearing in the question-paper winning the jackpot as against others who had learnt by rote a different set of questions.

Admittedly, a nation-wide exam for admissions into various courses was justified due to the sharp variance in standards of education and learning in various universities. For instance, it was alleged that students from some regional universities got admission in relatively better central universities even though their educational standards did not match the marks they were granted at the school-leaving stage. Besides it was absolutely necessary that only the bright and the best students made it to the highly-prized professional colleges. Injecting partisan politics into the switchover to NEET for admissions into medical, engineering and other professional courses was to be avoided. Parents spend hard-earned money for their children to be admitted into medical colleges but if the entrance process was to be vitiated by paper leaks and uneven marking of papers it inflicts avoidable pain and hardship on them and their aspirant children. For want of a better system to vet the admission process for entry into professional colleges the authorities may have to persist with the existing tests. However, to the extent NEET and NET break the stranglehold of educational entrepreneurs and politicians over the professional colleges through a long-overdue assault on the payment of capitation fees NEET must be welcome. Let us not throw the baby out along with the bathwater. Instead, care should be taken to make the all-India tests foolproof, glitch-proof.

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