The CBSE or the Central Board for Secondary Education that conducts NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) for medical courses finds itself in a mess of its own making. After NEET became mandatory last year following a Supreme Court ruling, the Union HRD ministry accepted the demand of states that the exam be held in regional languages as well to provide a level playing field for students from disadvantaged sections and in rural areas who studied in their mother tongue. And yet when NEET for UG courses was conducted on May 7, it created an uneven playing field, as the content in the question booklets in Tamil were different from those in English.
As first reported by The New Indian Express, while the English paper was set on the CBSE syllabus, most questions in the Tamil one were from the state board syllabus, violating the principle of ‘one India, one question paper’. In all, there were 10 sets of question papers in as many languages, including Bengali and Gujarati. The CBSE is already looking into charges that the Bengali paper was the toughest.
Based on a writ petition, the Madras High Court stayed the publication of NEET results till June 7. The petitioners contested the preparation of an all-India rank list based on skewed test papers, saying it would affect scaling of intelligence and aptitude. Justice M V Muralidharan’s oral observation added judicial heft: “As per the Supreme Court ruling, there should be uniformity in the questions in the national-level entrance tests conducted for admissions in higher educational institutions.”
The petitioners demanded a retest, saying it would otherwise impinge on their right to equal opportunities in education. The CBSE had one full year to think through the process of NEET-ly conducting the exam but has made a hash of it and added to student stress. That’s another indicator of its lack of transparency and accountability. Heads should roll in the CBSE if the May 7 NEET-UG fails to pass judicial scrutiny.