Dr Kannan Arjun Brisbane, Australia
NATIONAL ELIGIBILITY CUM ENTRANCE TEST
NOT SO NEAT- NOT SO NEEDED
National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) score is being accepted since 2013for admission into all the Medical and Dental colleges in India. The Government of India has authorized Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) for conducting NEET examination and decides about modalities of exam pattern and allotment of seats. CBSE claims that NEET helps candidates to seek admissions into various Medical/Dental Colleges that run with the approval of Medical Council of India/Dental Council of India under the Union Ministry of Health and Family Welfare except for the institutions established by an Act of Parliament i.e. AIIMS and JIPMER.
Nowhere in the world medical school admission is purely based on a three hour test like NEET that is based on private coaching. NEET also ignores the social justice commitment of the Government. Even in the USA, Australia and Europe there are quotas for Rural students and Indigenous people. The claim that NEET improves quality of medical education lacks evidence and the capitation fees increased with NEET. So what purpose NEET is achieving? Nothing.
Jake Sullivan (Yale University and Advisor to Mrs. Clinton) stated that “public policy involves imperfect people, with imperfect information, facing deeply imperfect choices – so it’s not surprising that they’re getting imperfect results”. NEET is a typical example of an imperfect policy. On the public policy of medical school entrance, the Medical Council of India (MCI) rightly identified some real problems of multiple entrance tests, corruption and irregularities in admissions to medical courses. Unfortunately, for all these problems NEET is not the solution.
It seems NEET ‘policy is designed by spin doctors who aim to keep our heads below the water with their self-serving agendas that prevailed over common sense’ (a quote taken from American Author Marilyn Ferguson). A modified form of NEET, with weightage for Grade 12 marks, may be needed to solve the multiple entrance tests only for the 15 per cent quotas for inter-state students. Corruption, in many states so also in Tamil Nadu, is eliminated with Year 12 marks-based selection for the 85 per cent of the seats with state Medical Schools.
There are conceptual problems with the current public policy of NEET that is likely to destroy the quality of medical education and work against the social justice by encouraging expensive coaching for NOT SO NEAT – NOT SO NEEDED to NEET. First, the Year 12 mark is achieved after 12 years of systematic education both under the CBSE or other State syllabuses. Do the academic world and educationists say that the CBSE and State Schools are incompetent to rank the students merit for medical entrance and the year 12 ranks and marks are useless? Do they also proclaim that NEET score (a three-hour test), tutored mostly by NEET coaching centres, and are superior to the comprehensive year 12 exams marks achieved under CBSC and other state syllabuses? If that is the case, should we then abolish the grade 12 exams altogether and use an objective type NEET as the best outcome than the school teaching? By ignoring the Year 12 marks we are destroying the importance of and motivation for the year 12 studies. But, then claim that NEET tests the student on year 12 syllabus is ridiculous.
Eminent educational institutions and academics across the globe have been considering the year 12 or other academic marks as a primary score for medical school admissions in the European Union, USA, Canada, Australia, Japan, South Korea, Turkey and others.
What do the educational researches reveal about the impacts of entrance tests?
A study was conducted in Australia (Med J Aust) 2008 Medical school admission criteria and the prediction of academic performance) about the relationship between medical admission based on year 12 marks, entrance tests (GAMSAT score) and interview. The result showed that year 12 score is most strongly associated with best performance of students in medical schools, followed by small impacts of interview score and written test (GAMSAT score). Another study in Australia (Med Teach). 2011 Dec; 33(12): Published online 2011 May 19; Admission selection criteria as predictors of outcomes in an undergraduate medical course: A prospective study indicated that a combined prior academic achievement with the assessment of communication skills in a structured interview as selection criteria for medical course. In India, we rightfully abolished the interview after abuse of the interview with political interference.
A study in the USA (Acad Med. 2013 May 88(5): The predictive validity of the MCAT exam in relation to academic performance through medical school: a national cohort study of 2001-2004 matriculants) concluded that a combination of School marks (+UGPAs) and written test (MCAT) total scores are strong predictors of academic performance in medical school through graduation. Further, these relationships generalize across medical schools.
- Korean top Universities, called SKYE, admission is for students who have achieved a near perfect score on the CSAT (College Scholastic Ability Test) and top grades in school. There are serious problems associated with both CSAT and Grades in schools. Roy MP and Gupta H (2016, British Medical Journal) evaluated the NEET and concluded that NEET has resulted in increase in capitation fee of some medical colleges of India. There also NEET is a total failure.
The conclusion is year 12 or equivalent school marks are the best indicator of quality of better medical students than written test like NEET that has negligible impact on improving the quality of medical education. Then why so much waste of time and money by poor parents? Why unnecessary pressure on our students and parents?
NEET will destroy the quality of our medical education as it is based on NEET scoring only. The NEET is not a well thought out policy and badly rushed and implemented without any social justice or research base. It’s like some advisors proposed NEET without any policy analysis beforehand. Students are treated like trial guinea pigs for an invalid policy proposed by mythical educationists. NEET must be abolished because for no reason it costs more to parents and students and put them to unwanted pressures.
Can Courts interfere with the public policy of the Government?
Governments frame evidence based public policy with social justice in mind and such matter is under the jurisdiction of the state assemblies and parliament. Supreme Court cannot interfere with policy matter other than any constitutional concern. All states must develop a really evidence based policy for entrance to 85 per cent quota in State Medical Schools than haphazardly rushing through wrong policy with disastrous implementation (like Demo and NEET). Courts in India, as rightly pointed out by the then PM Dr Manmohan Singh, are normally over stepping without jurisdiction into policy matters which is under the jurisdiction of the Parliament and Assemblies. At times, politicians love to take shelter under the extraconstitutional intervention by courts to circumvent public outcry. There is no honesty. In States like Tamil Nadu admission to medical schools were well systematized and there is no chance for corruption with year 12 ranking as the criterion. I do not see any valid reasons for NEET.
There are two other serious policy conflicts in NEET and the CBSE acted without authority:
- First, the non-creamy layer (NCL) policy to be decided by the Central and State governments and CBSE assumed extra constitutional authority and imposed non-creamy layer policy;
- Second, there is an in-service quota in medical admission to encourage Doctors to move to rural and remote areas. NEET silently abolished such quotas without any authority.
These are dangerous precedence as CBSE should strictly implement the Government policy and not to introduce public policy through back door.
- Educational research evidence indicates that Year 12 or equivalent academic score is the best determinant of quality of medical graduates and therefore year 12 score must be the best criterion.
- Eminent medical schools in the USA, Europe, Australia, Japan, S. Korea and others, using the academic scores as the main criterion for medical school entrance.
- Governments at Central and States are committed to the policy of social justice. Our rural and poor students lack learning environment and facilities like the elite and urban students. Under that contexts, NEET acts against the policies of social justice and inclusive development.
- NEET is not suitable as it re-test students in year 12 subjects but failed to assess any other attributes needed.
- Finally, year 12 studies are not uniform across the countries for myriad reasons under the specific socio-economic conditions of each state. Both the Central and State Governments must concentrate to make the year 12 education with comparable syllabus, facilities and funding.
Based on the above analysis, the appropriate policy options include:
- For the 85 per cent quota to the State Medical Schools, NO NEED FOR NEET and let the States use the Year 12 mark for merit ranking. With computerised ranking the corruption is eliminated under this system as in Tamil Nadu and other states.
- For the 15 per cent All India quota, a weighted score of Year 12 mark and a common entrance test not purely based on year 12 subjects of State or CBSE syllabus. This will eliminate multiple entrance tests.
- For all private Medical Universities and Colleges, the admission must be strictly based on Merit list prepared by the Government using the Grade 12 marks.
- The problem of capitation fees must be managed through legislation and control mechanisms.
In conclusion, NEET must be abolished for the state quota of 85 per cent of the State Medical Schools admissions. For the All India quota of 15 per cent of the medical admissions in all medical schools in the country, a simplified and modified entrance test must be developed and implemented with a clear implementation plan, if necessary, with a pilot or mock testing for one or two years.