The Supreme Court’s order to conduct the National Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) instead of the All India Pre Medical test (AIPMT) for the academic year 2016-17 has left medical aspirants in a fix. The exam, which is slated to be held in two phases, has also been declared by the Government to cover states like Jammu and Kashmir and Telangana which enjoy special category status. This article seeks to provide a bird’s eye view of the student’s predicament and the response of various stakeholders.
The Apex Court on April 11 ordered all medical colleges, including deemed institutions, to take admissions on the basis of NEET. The Bench, comprising Justice Anil Dave, Justice A.K. Sikri, Justice R.K. Agrawal, Justice A.K. Goel and Justice R. Banumati observed, “After giving our thoughtful and due consideration, we are of the view that the judgment delivered in Christian Medical College (supra) needs reconsideration. We do not propose to state reasons in detail at this stage so as to see that it may not prejudicially affect the hearing of the matters”. “Suffice it is to mention that the majority view has not taken into consideration some binding precedents and more particularly, we find that there was no discussion among the members of the Bench before pronouncement of the judgment.”
It had then directed on Thursday that NEET-2016 be conducted in two phases.
NEET will be conducted by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) in two languages, English and Hindi. All India Pre-Medical Test (AIPMT), which is being considered as the first phase of NEET, will be held on May 1. Six lakh students will be appearing for NEET-1 at 1,040 centres in 52 cities, including abroad. Those students who had not applied for NEET-1 will be given an opportunity to appear for NEET-2 on July 24.
The results for NEET-1 as well as NEET-2 will be declared on August 17 and admission process will be completed by September 30.
MPs across the political divide in Lok Sabha discuss postponement
The discussion on NEET found its way to the Lok Sabha on Friday, with the MPs from both sides of the political divide reportedly demanding that the exam be postponed.
“This affects the lives of lakhs of children. Students would be in great stress due to this decision. I would appeal to the government to combine the two tests and hold a single test on July 24,” BJP MP Jagdambika Pal was quoted as saying during the Zero Hour.
Congress MP Rajiv Satav was however of the view that the system should be implemented from 2018, giving the State two years’ time to prepare for it. He demanded that the Government should either find a legal recourse to postpone the exam, or allow all students to appear on July 24.
Shiv Sena’s Arvind Sawant pointed out that students from boards other than CBSE might find it challenging to prepare for the test.
The verdict vis-à-vis State entrance exams
Maharashtra Medical Education minister Vinod Tawde on Friday reportedly declared that the State Government would file a review petition in the Supreme Court. Mr. Tawde requested students to appear for the state's medical entrance examination, MH-CET, on May 5, saying that even if the SC turned down its plea to conduct MH-CET on May 5, the students still have the chance to appear for NEET-2 on July 24.
“There are over four lakh students who have registered for admission to medical and professional courses. Out of these 1.5 lakh students opt for medical and dental courses. Following the SC order, we will now file a review petition in the SC to allow admissions to medical courses via the MHT-CET,” Dr. Pravin Shingare, DMER, told The Indian Express.
“We are still going through the judgment but our stand is clear. We would file a review petition against the SC order on Monday,” state medical education secretary Medha Gadgil told DNA.
The State’s plea would bank on the premise that students from HSC Board, appearing for the 85% of the state-level admission quota seats, will not be able to compete with the students from CBSE boards in the NEET because of the difference in syllabus.
The Tamil Nadu Government has also appealed to the Apex Court, against making NEET compulsory for admissions. The State does not have any entrance exam for professional courses, with the admissions being based on the marks scored in standard 12th. This is to ensure that students from rural areas also get into medicine, engineering and other professional courses in large numbers.
Calling it a crime against principles of social justice, Pattali Makkal Katchi (PMK) leader S. Ramadoss blamed the Centre for taking the decision unilaterally without consulting the states on matters concerning education which is in concurrent list. He was of the opinion that the State Government should inform the Centre in unequivocal terms that any decision on common entrance test will not be binding on it.
Chief Minister of Assam Mr. Tarun Gogoi has also joined the bandwagon, seeking review of the decision, and requesting the Centre to take up the matter. Mr. Gogoi opines that the decision to hold single test for medical entrance might prove counter-productive for the students of Assam.
Andhra Pradesh Engineering, Agriculture and Medical Common Entrance Test (AP EAMCET) was conducted on Friday as per its schedule. “States like Andhra Pradesh possess special protection under Article 371D and the AP EAMCET exam that comprises MBBS, veterinary, agriculture and BDS, will be conducted on Friday without any changes. This was decided after consultations at higher level,” AP’s Health and Medical Education Minister Kamineni Srinivas was quoted as saying.
The Karnataka Examinations Authority has reportedly decided that its Common Entrance Test will be conducted as scheduled on May 4 and 5. A total of 1.78 lakh candidates have registered for this year’s CET. “Although there is still ambiguity on what this test would mean for medical seat aspirants, we have decided to go ahead with CET as it is also an entrance exam to obtain government quota engineering and agriculture seats,” they said.
While the State has decided to follow the Apex Court’s judgment, there exists ambiguity over the Gujarat Common Entrance Test (GujCET), which is scheduled for May 10. While the Chairman of Gujarat Secondary and Higher Secondary Education Board (GSHSEB) said that the exam would be held as scheduled on May 10, the Health Minister said no final decision has been taken and opinion is divided. “GujCET will be conducted as scheduled on May 10. We have issued hall tickets for the exam,” GSHSEB Chairman A.J. Shah was quoted as saying.
An online petition titled, One NEET 2016 for all in one single phase and NOT in two phases, has also been started through Change.org, “on behalf of approximately 6.5 lakhs students who have already registered for AIPMT 2016.” The petition demands that NEET be conducted on a single date, as conducting it in two phases would give some students extra time for preparing for the exam.
“It will definitely give those candidates an undue advantage who were either not serious to apply for AIPMT 2016 or had some other reason(s) for not applying for AIPMT 2016 and did not register for the same. They will get an extra three months approximately to prepare since the second phase would be conducted on 24th July 2016. If NEET has to be conducted in 2016, only one exam should be conducted in one phase only for all the students. It may not be on 1st May 2016 and can be at a later date for everyone. Most of the candidates have already registered for various other medical examinations for MBBS and BDS and have already paid the necessary application fees also. I doubt if all this money will be refunded,” the petition states.
Early schedule worries students
Students have reportedly expressed concern regarding the timing of the exam. Most stakeholders have opined that conducting NEET in two phases is flawed, as students would hardly get any time to prepare for the new test in the new format with the new syllabus. Students have also expressed concern over the advantage that CBSE students might have in the examination.
“Converting AIPMT to be held in two days into first phase of Neet itself is disturbing for students. This decision should have been taken at least six month earlier. A fresh date should be announced and the exam held for all on a single day in July or August instead of on two days so that children are better prepared mentally for the same. Students appearing in the second phase will have an unfair advantage as they will get more time to study. Also, results can only be declared after the second phase. In these conditions, it would be better if all are allowed to appear for the exam on a single day in July,” Mr. P. Krishna Kumar, medical entrance expert in Narayana Group was quoted as saying.
Stakeholders are also of the view that a single entrance exam for medical would not give us quality results. Speaking to Firstpost, Vimala Ramachandran, former professor at National University of Educational Planning and Administration said, “I think putting all the eggs in one basket is not every good for all the students. For example if there is only one entrance for all medical colleges, then my fear is that it may actually adversely affect children from different parts of the country.”
“There should be more than one exam because it depends a lot on which board you are coming from. If JEE was the only entrance exam for engineering, that'd be quite sad because students can go to Kota and get trained to give the exam. That does not necessarily mean they do better. I know a lot of very bright young people who have done well in life and who could not get through JEE because they could not go through this rigorous coaching,” she further said, adding, “The Pilani (BITS) entrance test is administered online and you can give the test in multiple attempts to improve your score. Maybe those kind of exams would have greater value than having pen and paper exams,” she added.
With the final order by the Supreme Court expected on May 3, it is incumbent that the Court addresses all these issues as expressed by the students, as also clarify whether states accorded special status would be required to participate in the all-India examination. Without such clarity, the uniformity envisaged by the Apex Court would only result in an unduly mess this year.