The National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test, or NEET (UG), is a single exam for all students who are aspiring to be doctors throughout the country. Well, before NEET (UG), there was the All India Pre Medical Test (AIPMT). However, back then, the states also had their own system to conduct exams for the students and admit them accordingly. Consequently, only around 15% of the seats in an institution used to be filled through AIPMT.
They say it serves two purposes.
1. It ensures that institutions admits only those deserving candidates who can clear the exam.
2. It also ensures that private colleges don’t get capitations, and that everyone has the chance of getting admitted to one, despite their financial status.
Let’s discuss the first one. Who is a ‘deserving candidate’?
I am from Tamil Nadu, and we did oppose the entrance exams for a long time, given the fear that it would not be an equal field of play between rural and urban students.
So, why should you insist on merit over the possibility of a student from a rural area getting into a medical college?
When someone from a remote area (where people live in abysmal conditions, let alone having the comfort to read) qualifies to be a doctor, that uplifts the people in the whole area.
It gives them the hope that they too can turn things around. And why am I specifically talking about the medical profession? As far as I have noticed and heard, rarely does any other profession gather as much respect to these people (who are marginalised in the name of caste and are oppressed by the so-called elites) as the medical profession.
If one were to notice the performance of primary health centres (PHCs) all over India, I am confident that Tamil Nadu would feature as one of the best -performing states – in terms of the quality of doctors /PHCs, achieving low infant mortality and maternal mortality rates, among other parameters.
The reason behind this can be mainly attributed to two factors.
1. Incentive marks given for PG admissions by the government to doctors working in all PHCs, and also the maintenance of a proper and successful counselling method on this.
2. Many doctors working in PHCs belong to the same region. Realistically speaking, I do not think a person from a metropolitan city would want to go to work and perform their best in a remote region, far away from their home – where there may be a scarcity of water and numerous other issues.
There is another reason why Tamil Nadu is able to achieve these standards. To the best of my knowledge and as far as I have seen, individuals from most regions are able to gain admission to a medical college in various capacities, irrespective of the presence (or absence) of an entrance exam.
No. I have been with many such students. It’s the medium of English that is difficult for a few of them, not medicine. And even if they may not be up to the standards of a NEET-level (or previously, AIPMT-level) student, the chance to compete with these people and even gain admission to a college may give them a lot of scope to address their deficits.
If you want better standards for doctors, it is the curriculum you need to upgrade, not the entrance exams. The entrance exams are just a method to pick a few among the masses who aspire. Serving merit is necessary, no doubt. But it shouldn’t come at the cost of social justice.
If you do, let’s have a deeper look into the scenario. Those who are aware of NEET may know how the introduction of a few coaching centres has ‘revolutionised’ these exams. It’s reached a point where it now seems that these exams keep updating in order to catch up with the demands and ways of the centres. As a matter of fact, it’s almost become ‘mandatory’ to take a coaching class in order to clear the exam. Many students even take a year off after their class 12 exams to take private coaching classes before appearing for NEET. On the other hand, do you think students, whose families have barely managed to finance their education till class 12, can afford to bear the expenses of an extra year of private coaching classes? The hard truth is that the government can never catch up with these private coaching centres!
Is this a level ground for people from cities and remote regions to compete?
Is this a level ground for the child of a millionaire and that of a pauper to compete against each other?
Is this a level ground for a graduate and someone who comes from an illiterate family?
And obviously, when a large section of the population is being denied opportunities to pursue education of their choice, it is marginalisation. When there aren’t going to be enough doctors in rural regions, that’s also marginalisation . And, most of all, when people lose hope that they can uplift themselves (and those around) through education, that’s marginalisation too!
Has NEET served the second purpose of regulating the capitations and fees, at least? It has and it hasn’t. The capitations may be gone, but the fees charged are still overwhelming and astronomical for a number of students. A few colleges even continue to receive capitations (in an underhanded fashion perhaps, by splitting them and in the form of fees). So it would seem that in such colleges, nothing has changed.
Yes – let us move forward with our ‘meritorious students’, leaving behind a large section of the population . After all, we seem to be wise enough to see and understand the world through and through, all by ourselves. But, do remember that one can never find happiness in this world by eliminating the people they deem unnecessary.