NEET – National Eligibility Entrance Test, consumes once again the headlines. As the Tamil Nadu assembly, on Sept 13th – Monday passed the bill to scrap NEET as an assessment for medical aspirants and admitting students to undergraduate programmes like medicine, dental etc, on the basis of their overall performance of their 12th Grade examinations. A change that the authorities claim would work towards social justice.
Considering the history of NEET and the goals it wanted to achieve through its enabling, it first and foremost created an umbrella of a single entrance exam for all medical aspirants in India. Preceding to NEET the admissions took place through the means of national state level entrance examinations. During which on an average, a student was expected to appear between 7-9 entrance examinations (CET), consequently causing superfluous stress on them as well as their parents.
Furthermore, any student who attempted this journey would have to face the financial burden in multiple forms i.e., admission fees, cost of commuting to and fro be it between cities or centres. NEET was designed to overcome such hindrances allowing accessibility of education, quality of education and inclusiveness to be its main concerns.
Bearing in Mind the state of Tamil Nadu – had recognized the flaws present in continuing with CET as a means of assessment for medical aspirants based on a committee of educational experts led by the chairmanship of M. Ananda Krishnan, former Vice-Chancellor of Anna University. The Government, acknowledged the CET as a traumatic experience for the students and the parents, as it sought to determine their future on the basis of an unfair assessment.
Further revealing the students belonging to rural areas had added disadvantages with no accessibility of CET coaching classes locally and if made available would increase their financial burden. The State proposed a resolution avowing the higher secondary examination (12th board exam) in itself endured to be a serious examination of merit, any additional exam would be imposing a heavy burden on students.
In consequence, to the systematic flawed assessment the society has had to deal with heavy repercussions. During an interview Prof Anil Sadgopal, an educationist and activist, recalls Anita a young NEET Aspirant of Dalit background who was another victim in the list of suicides due to the “neo-liberal reforms introduced to endorse commercialization of education”.
Learning and knowing the problems of Anita allows us to view the failings of NEET. She was a 17-year-old daughter of a daily-wage labourer from Trichy. She had scored a brilliant 98% (1176 out of 1200) in the Tamil Nadu State board examinations and was confident of accomplishing her dream of getting admission in to a government medical college in the state. Conversely, once the supreme court had ordered that admissions would be done only on the basis of an additional, common centralized NEET exam.
Nevertheless, she firstly had petitioned against the decision in supreme court and had appealed that the poor, marginalized, underprivileged students similar to her, particularly those that belong to villages cannot afford private coaching classes like the rich and elite students from cities do, as a result gaining an advantage in clearing an “All-India Competitive Exam”. Unfortunately, her petition did not change the verdict of the supreme court with the course of NEET resulting in her eventual death.
Similar victims are Kanimozhi K of Ariyalur district and Dhanush of Salem who were murdered by the institutional failure of the NEET examination whose objective was to make the process in a fair, inclusive manner.
The failure of NEET has been acknowledged by various Civil rights organizations. For instance, the Committee of AIFRTE (All-India Forum for Right to Education) has stated that ‘NEET goes in contradiction to the constitution’ Devising a centralized NEET exam compulsorily, violates the federal character of the Constitution and the concurrent status of education.
Rather the state needs to be empowered in all aspects thou health is a state subject, then again the other technical studies are not different from academic studies and are to be given immense importance. Education is a significant aspect to uplift the society. The more the powers are decentralized, the deeper you take it to the villages, the better and stronger will the federal structure become.
A Government in its deliverances of its policies has to achieve social justice in the society. NEET regrettably in its imposition of private costs results in the discrimination of the oppressed and the marginalized sections such as SCs, STs, OBCs, minorities especially Muslims, and particularly girls and the disabled in these sections. It needs to be addressed that in India there are different forms of School education systems, and curriculums which mutually differ from state to state. It is highly unlikely for all these students to write a single examination following a single curriculum.
It appears that being financially equipped is a prerequisite for any student who is a medical aspirant. In addition, students join coaching centres and start preparing for them from their 8th or 9th grade ignoring the school syllabus, a case from 2018 highlights the hideousness of the system. A student from Bihar secured the top rank in NEET, however it is said that the student was coached in a private centre of NEET from Delhi, while also attending school in Bihar. She was accused of not going to school instead attending only NEET private coaching to qualify the entrance exam.
This instance just highlights the defects the system has in them. The Politicians, our Governments and the citizens needs to revisit, respect and remind the philosophy behind the diversity of the country. Education is a universal and fundamental human right. The Indian education needs to put its concerns on the accessibility, quality and equity. The quality of education seems to be declining, it needs to emphasize on the constitutional values of liberty, equality, fraternity, justice, tolerance, harmony and pluralism. It needs to be all-encompassing of India’s plurality in culture, language and religious traditions.
The standard of education should be improved and be made inclusive state wise. Education is not a business entity, instead a free entity and needs to be made accessible. Transport facility, Health Insurance, Nutrition of Students are some of the crucial steps towards which government needs to ponder and generate attainable plans. Forms of affirmative action needs to be taken to achieve social justice. Only inclusivity and unity would ensure a healthy and dynamic civil society ensuring a peaceful, harmonious and happy India.