After shooting itself in the foot by deciding to tinker with the forthcoming NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) syllabi for admissions to undergraduate medical courses across the country, the Union Human Resource Development ministry did a flip-flop within three days. It restored the existing CBSE syllabus for the exam. Last week, HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar told TNIE in an exclusive interview, “we ... decided that we will take into account curricula of all state boards while framing the question paper for NEET.”
While Javadekar saw the multiple syllabi as a magic bullet to end the resentment in Tamil Nadu and other states over the CBSE skew in the question paper, there was an avalanche of protest from students and parents over tweaking less than 100 days before the exam, slated for May 6.
All of last year, Tamil Nadu had vociferously argued in favour of exempting it from NEET saying it would put rural students at a disadvantage; passed two bills in the state Assembly and sent it to the President for approval; and lobbied extensively with the Centre to at least promulgate an ordinance for waiver. All that came to naught and pressure built up after a Dalit medical aspirant, who got 98 per cent in the state Board but couldn’t qualify in NEET, committed suicide. She then became the face of the anti-NEET protest.
And Tamil Nadu woke up to the reality that its state board syllabus hadn’t been updated for over a decade and started dusting it up. It also decided to make rural students NEET-ready by launching over 400 coaching institutions across the state, though not all of them have been opened yet. In the past too, the Centre had offered half-baked advice, like the one on carving out a quota for state board students after the NEET results were out. The quota was promptly struck down by the judiciary. Here’s hoping people in big positions put serious thought to their formulations on subjects like education and not trot out quick fix solutions that come unstuck.