Students protest during the ongoing NEET crisis
Students protest during the ongoing NEET crisis

NEET and the right ‘Neeti’

We must remember that each time something goes wrong the real loser is the aspirant who has borne high levels of stress and incurred expenses often way beyond his or her means.

I do not know what it is with entrance examinations for medical colleges that over the years have led to all sorts of issues of credibility. My assertion here has been prompted as much by the latest noise around the NEET exams as by the ill-begotten practices engendered by various medical entrance examinations prior to the introduction of NEET.

These pre-NEET exams had sprouted in various parts of our nation over the past several decades and had begun to lose their credibility. In fact, NEET was prompted to restore credibility and fairness. Unfortunately, the remedy has not worked as well as it should have or could have. We must remember that each time something goes wrong the real loser is the aspirant who has borne high levels of stress and incurred expenses often way beyond his or her means.

The antecedents of such practices date back to well before NEET was introduced. In fact, during my time as the Vice Chancellor of Delhi University, I had uncovered—after strenuous investigations—that our medical entrance examination had been compromised. To stem the rot, I had decided to tag the University of Delhi medical entrance examination with that being conducted by one of our foremost medical institutions.

Unfortunately, I discovered that they too had been plagued by an identical problem. My search then led me far and wide only to learn that the same story prevailed almost everywhere. I recount all this only to highlight the fact that the National Testing Agency is up against heavy odds in its bid to maintain the credibility and integrity of the NEET examination.

However, the problem of restoring and maintaining credibility is not an insurmountable one. With some effort, the NTA can easily ensure that the NEET, as also other similar examinations, are conducted in a fair, transparent and equitable manner. Of course, the real effort shall lie in putting in place a significant one-time effort to create the right question bank. This shall require the constitution of genuine experts who understand the game of enlightened testing and are also knowledge experts. Let me also hasten to add that there is a shortage of such folk.

Mediocrity, ineptitude and even corruption are the bane of our world of academe. It shall also require some ingenious use of technology that shall ensure efficiency and confidentiality. I have thought over such a scheme many times, but this column is not the right place to delineate the algorithm. I say this with much solemnity that the idea does not involve rocket science and shall hopefully work just as well for NEET as for any such major examination.

However, the moot point remains unaddressed: are we examining our youth out of their minds by heaping one examination after another on them? This obsession with imposing numerous entrance examinations is stemming creativity in our youth. And my fear is that very soon our nation may appear from outer space as one gigantic examination centre.

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The New Indian Express
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