The rigmarole surrounding the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) following the Supreme Court’s decision has been taxing for several students across the country. On May 9th, the Supreme Court said that all the medical and dental admissions in the country will happen through NEET (which is based on the CBSE syllabus). Following the apex court order, the CBSE board agreed to hold NEET into two phases: On May 1 and July 24.
Before we get into the merits of holding such an exam, let us look at the timing of the Supreme Court’s judgement. The Supreme Court order comes at a time when several states like Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana and others either have held their state-level tests or were about to hold it in the month of May. Despite some states being exempted from NEET under Article 371 (D), it definitely has created widespread confusion across the country.
Given that all the state-level entrance tests follow the state syllabus, it is difficult for these students to prepare for NEET which is based on the CBSE syllabus. This means students who have studied under the state board require time to accustom themselves to the NEET syllabus.
Of course, NEET will go a long way in reducing malpractices and corruption in medical education. It emphasises merit and will save students from the burden of giving multiple tests and prevent the collection of donations, profiteering or capitation fee.
But, it is imperative for us to note that even an apex court judgement can be so badly timed in our country when we are trying to streamline medical education based on merit. It is a known fact that such entrance exams will be held in April, May or June. This mess of NEET portrays the Centre and Supreme Court in a bad light because their “EUREKA” moment was so badly timed, without considering the interests of the students. What worsens the issue is the Centre’s flip-flop on mandating NEET from this year and later, passing an ordinance exempting States from NEET this year after nearly 14 states requested the Centre to postpone it to next year.
As much as we appreciate spurts of judicial activism from the Supreme Court, we also need to understand that, in such judgements, we are dealing with the lives of students whose careers are at stake. This is also reflective of our messy legislative, executive and judicial processes. While dispensing such judgements, ground realities must be considered apart from lofty academic discussions.