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NEET: A TEST OF MERIT OR A TEST OF EXCLUSION?

Author: Sagarika Swapnil, Advocate at Patna High Court

Co-author: Raj Krishna, LL.M. from NLIU Bhopal


INTRODUCTION

Much has already been said or written about the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET). The supporters of NEET argue that this test has made entrance procedure to the medical colleges simpler and student friendly. However, the critics argue that the test is an assault upon the autonomy of medical institutions, especially those who are private and unaided. Furthermore, the critics also argue that this test is not a student friendly test because it has closed the doors of medical colleges for those coming from disadvantaged backgrounds.


It is pertinent to note that in the year 2021 the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly passed the Medical Degree Courses Billwhich intends to provide admission to medical courses on the basis of marks secured by the candidate in the Class XII examination. Furthermore,to adjust scores of students coming from different boards, anormalization method shall be employed. The Bill is based on the recommendations of the Justice A K Rajan Committee which was constituted by the Tamil Nadu State Government to study the impact of NEET on medical admonitions in the state. However, till date the Bill has not received the assent of the Governor.


NEET: A TEST OF MERIT?

It is often argued by the supporters of NEET that it promotes meritocracy. Now the question arises is this that what is meritocracy? If we ask any lay man that, how will he decide who is more meritorious then he will simply answer that check the performance in the competitive exam and you will get to know. However, one often ignores the external factors which affects the performance in a competitive exam.


A number of Western scholars have argued that a common entrance test fails to judge the abilities which are crucial for learning. Furthermore, an empirical study in the United States suggests that the common entrance examination isbiased against the poorer and underprivileged sections of population, women and minorities.


The Tamil Nadu State Government report submitted to the Madras High Court shows that a very limited number of students cleared NEET without attending any private coaching institute. The data also suggested that most of the candidates who were admitted in state medical institutions that year were mostly drop-outs. As a result, the Madras High Court in its interim order observed that “medical education is only available to those who underwent coaching classes by spending lakhs of rupees. Moreover, this puts the rural students in a disadvantageous position because they fail to attend coaching. It should be taken note of by the Central government, which brought the rules and regulations or amendment for conducting NEET”The order further read that the“first-timers have to prepare for both school and NEET exams simultaneously, whereas students who had already completed their Plus Two could fairly devote their time for preparing exclusively for NEET. The unequals have been treated equally in NEET. This fact should also be taken note of by the Central government.”


WAY AHEAD

After looking into the final results of various reports it can be said that NEET violates Article 14 of the Constitution as it favors the rich and affects the poor and the marginalized from admission to medical institutions of our country. Furthermore, a report also suggests that this exam favors those students who come from the CBSE Board and have done their schooling in English Language. It is pertinent to note that in the year 2018, nearly 49 questions were wrongly translated in Tamil which affected a lot of students who have done their schooling in Tamil language.


The Union Government introduced NEET with an aim to stop private medical colleges from making money during admission process. However, NEET on the other hand is helping private coaching institutions to make that extra money by guiding students to those medical colleges by a single entrance exam. It can thus be said that the purpose of introducing a common test has been frustrated. As a result, it is high time that we change the procedure of admission in medical institutions of our country. Afterall a test which promotes inequality can never be considered a test of all.