The Supreme Court recently gave the green signal for the CBSE to hold the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for the year 2016-17 in two phases for admission to undergraduate medical and dental courses. The long-awaited decision on NEET has evoked mixed response from students and various stakeholders.
The discussion over single entrance exams has been there for long, and every time it has faced various challenges. Students who have not been exposed to competitive exams (like in Tamil Nadu) and students whose syllabus of class XI and XII is not aligned with the CBSE will surely be at a disadvantage writing the test in the second phase.
The single entrance exams will also deprive States or private colleges of their rights to conduct separate exams and admit students as per their own procedures. There are also regional sentiments at play in opposing the decision of the apex court. But, the issue has to be analysed in a broader perspective and in the interests of the large student fraternity. In the current system, a student has to go through multiple exams. Syllabus differences, date clash, different exam patterns, remote exam centres and so on, make it more burdensome for students. But a single entrance exam system holds the promise of taking away a lot of stress and saving money. Further, it can help in removing the unethical practices of private seat allotments. And, most importantly, it can pave the way for a selection based on merit.
Why, then, is there so much furore against the Supreme Court ruling in favour of a single medical entrance exam? One reason is the timing of the exam. Until a few days ago, medical aspirants were focussing on an exam they thought they were eligible for and had been preparing for based on a pattern. Now, all of a sudden, they have an all-new pattern to contend with. Tamil Nadu students are not familiar with multiple-choice questions; the State has done away with entrance examinations for professional courses. Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh, Telengana, and Gujarat conduct common entrance examinations based on their own higher secondary syllabus.
There is a marked difference in the difficulty level of questions asked in State common entrance exams and the AIPMT/NEET. Also, the time given for preparation for NEET Phase-II exam may not be sufficient for students, especially for those who had been concentrating only on State CETs.
The intention of moving towards a single entrance exam is welcome, but ideally, NEET should be implemented uniformly across all States, superseding all examinations from 2017, instead of 2016. This way, teachers and students will get sufficient time for preparation. Meanwhile, as the NEET storm takes time to subside, students should aim to give their best for the second phase of the exam.