Monday, July 22, 2024
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Review entire process of entrance into higher education courses

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Time for a ‘neet’ overhaul of admissions to medical colleges

By Dr Arun Mitra

Irregularities in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET), an examination conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for admissions to medical courses, has raised many serious questions. A record number of 67 students obtained the perfect score of 720 out of 23,33,297 who appeared for the test. Never have more than three students got full marks in this test since 2020. Two, scores of candidates reported that they were not given question papers on time or were handed wrong question papers. Three, the Optical Marks Recognition (OMR) sheet of some students was torn and their results were delayed. Four, for no fault of several hundred candidates, their results were blocked.
Such irregularities have to be taken seriously as they put the candidates in extreme mental stress and thousands of candidates make more than one attempt at the test. These candidates are unable to bear the stress and several take the extreme step of ending their lives.
Was there leakage of question papers and at whose behest? That many OMR sheets were found torn shows the total failure of the National Testing Agency (NTA) which should be held accountable and the persons at fault should be taken to task.
Affected candidates should be provided relief. The NTA has now cancelled the grace marks and ordered re-examinations for 1563 students. But why should the entire test be conducted again? A retest under stressful conditions cannot be a level playing field and those asked to go for the retest may not be able to perform well a second time. If they have to still undergo the retest, the expenditure should be borne by the National Testing Agency (NTA).
It is ironic that the admissions to the higher education courses have not been streamlined even after so many decades. The very basic principle of education for all and its purpose to prepare good citizens and empathetic doctors is being flouted. Instead of becoming a means to fulfil the given objectives, education has become the means to make profits.
There was a time when the marks obtained in the 12th class were the criteria for admission to higher courses. MCQ as the means of judgment of one’s knowledge has limited the scope of assessment at a wider scale. Several coaching centres have come up for those appearing in the NEET and other such admission tests. Students are encouraged to join coaching centres with the active connivance of their schools. The coaching centres charge exorbitant fees and students from low income families are automatically ruled out. Besides, the proportion of candidates from rural areas has come down.
The entrance test was started at the national level so as to ensure that the private medical colleges do not charge exorbitant fees and will not hold their own exams. But the private medical colleges have got around this hump by holding mop-up counselling for candidates applying to their colleges. Private medical colleges charge hefty amounts for admission to their courses. Candidates from low and middle income groups are the worst hit.
Several states are now demanding that they be given the right to take decisions in the admission process and be exempted from NEET for the state quota seats. NEET should be only for the central quota and for central government controlled colleges. This will protect the states’ rights to provide education. It must be recognised that India has a diversity of cultures and different levels of development.
Therefore, it is important that the students from low economic status should be supported by the government. Fees in the private colleges should be capped and made transparent including for the management quota seats. The clause of charging government level fees in the private colleges for 50 percent seats should be effectively implemented. The government should decide the fees for the other seats. Students from a rural background should be awarded extra marks for admission purposes. There should be dialogue among the various stakeholders including students’ organisations, teachers’ organizations and academicians. It is important to ensure that education does not become a ‘only for profit’ business. The State should own the responsibility to impart education on the principles laid down by the Kothari Commission. (IPA Service)

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