NEET-UG: From Controversy To Criticism, India's Biggest Medical Entrance Exam Faces Scrutiny

NEET-UG: From Controversy To Criticism, India's Biggest Medical Entrance Exam Faces Scrutiny

While NEET is no stranger to controversy, this is perhaps the biggest of them all. When it was promulgated around 13 years ago, the test faced stiff opposition from several states as well as medical institutes that had their own entrance tests.

Musab QaziUpdated: Thursday, June 20, 2024, 07:24 AM IST
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ANI

Mumbai: While NEET is no stranger to controversy, this is perhaps the biggest of them all. When it was promulgated around 13 years ago, the test faced stiff opposition from several states as well as medical institutes that had their own entrance tests.

The states saw it as an infringement on their rights by the Centre, considering that education is a concurrent subject and many of them had a different curriculum at higher secondary level than the one followed by the national test.

After it was first held in 2013, a three-judge bench of the Supreme Court (SC) declared it unlawful and unconstitutional. The test was revived in 2016 after a constitutional bench revised its decision and upheld the exam. However, the conduct of the test and the subsequent admission process for medical colleges continue to be a subject of numerous litigations every year, a fact pointed out by the Chief Justice of India DY Chandrachud himself.

NEET-UG has since become the biggest entrance test in the country, with close to 24 lakh candidates registering for it this year. In Maharashtra, it has become the only gateway to all undergraduate health science courses, not just MBBS and BDS.

Yet the test continues to face scrutiny, especially from those who see it as an exclusionary exercise that accentuates the educational disparity of the country. Among the most vocal critics of NEET are the state of Tamil Nadu and its political parties, who believe that the test puts their students at a disadvantage.

They have been claiming that the standardised test favours the rich, urban and forward caste students, who can afford and access expensive coaching institutes. Indeed, an analysis of the high-scoring candidates over the years reveals a disproportionately large presence of those belonging to unreserved categories.

The ongoing fiasco has unearthed various limitations of the singular national-wide test. It has shown that even if conducted by a national level organisation, high-stakes exams like NEET are still prone to malpractice. The critics have also lashed out at the lack of transparency by NTA, which revealed the compensatory marks only after the candidates questioned the anomalies in the result.

They also questioned the testing agency's decision to limit this facility to only those candidates who had either moved the courts or submitted complaints about shortage to the agency, while denying it to other aspirants. They remain wary of the agency's claims about integrity of exams as it refuses to divulge crucial details such as the exact quantum of compensatory marks and amount of time lost at the six centres.

At the heart of all the past and present contestations over NEET lies the high aspirational value still ascribed to the medical profession in the country. Most of the candidates spend at least two years, some even more, preparing for the high-stakes entrance exam in the hopes of getting one of the seats at the coveted medical colleges, which are perennially in short supply.

This demand-and-supply mismatch has allowed private colleges to charge exorbitant fees and even illegal donations and has given way to touts and agents promising seats to those who fall short of the required score. Unless these larger, fundamental issues are addressed, little can be achieved by merely focussing on the flaws in the testing system.

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