[Editorial Analysis] NEET is not student-friendly, merit-promoting

Mains Paper 2: National
Prelims level: National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test
Mains level: Objectives of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test


• The NEET (National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test) for medical courses is becoming a sign of over-centralization in education.

• The interests of democracy calls for arresting the trend towards the governmental domination of the educational process.

Judicial pronouncements in this regard:

• NEET was initially struck down as unconstitutional in Christian Medical College, Vellore (2013) case by a 2:1 majority.

• In 2016, a review of this judgment was allowed.

• Also, the dissenting judge of the 2013 judgment made NEET compulsory even prior to a full hearing by the Constitution Bench.

• In April 2020, the Supreme Court held that there was no fundamental right violation in prescribing NEET for medical course admissions.

• The observations made by a Commission (1948-49) do not seem to have been kept in mind in the April 2020 judgment.

Observations by the 1948-49 Commission:

• Freedom of individual development is the basis of democracy.

• Exclusive control of education by the government has been an important factor in facilitating the maintenance of totalitarian tyrannies.
• In such countries, institutions of higher learning controlled and managed by governmental agencies –

• act like mercenaries

• promote the political purposes of the State

• make them acceptable to an increasing number of their populations

• supply them with the weapons they need

How does it work with NEET?

• In the case of education, over-centralization is becoming a reality.

• NEET is much an assault on the autonomy of universities and higher education institutions, particularly private, unaided ones.

• In the name of the state’s power to “regulate”, the rights of unaided private institutions and minority institutions cannot be violated.

Disadvantaged do students:

• With NEET and other similar national tests such as the JEE and CLAT, coaching institutes are prospering.

• Since most of them are in cities, poorer students from a rural background face a disadvantage.

• The case is similar with students who have studied in the vernacular medium.

• There is also large-scale variation in the syllabus and standards of the Central Board of Secondary Education and State boards.

• Besides, the NEET paper was leaked twice in the last four years.

• Therefore, there is not much confidence in NEET’s fairness and transparency.

• Also, there is the issue of wrong translation.

• In the 2018 NEET, as many as 49 questions had errors in Tamil translation.

• [This led to a Madras High Court order to award 4 marks for each of the 49 wrongly translated questions to all 1.07 lakh candidates of the state.

• The Supreme Court overruled this order as the HC had arbitrarily ordered for grace marks to everyone.

• It did not examine whether the student even attempted such a question.]

• However, the advantages of NEET include a student having the possibility of giving multiple tests.

• By this, students would have a chance to qualify without losing a year, if they fail in one test.

Does NEET really promote merit?

• The ides of meritocracy requires competition and equality of opportunity.

• In the case of NEET, competition cannot be termed as fair and just, and the equality of opportunity becomes illusionary.

• Certainly, NEET and other such admission tests do not meet the fundamental criteria of meritocracy.

• It is unclear if NEET is adequately measuring the multidimensional construct of merit.

• Common admission tests fall short of measuring the abilities that are essential for learning such as imagination, curiosity, and motivation.

• Empirical research in the U.S. on such tests reveals that these tests are biased against the poorer and underprivileged sections of the population.

• Thus, there is also an element of ‘class’ in NEET, which the Indian judiciary has so far overlooked.

Importance of the differential treatment:

• Minority rights are not the violation of the equality provision in Article 14 as the Constitution does permit classification.

• In fact, substantive equality, as opposed to formal equality, mandates differential treatment.

• There are even hundreds of minority institutions of Hindus as linguistic minorities.

• The Court’s opinion in Kerala Education Bill 1957 [1958], on minority rights, deserves mention.

• A crucial statement in the judgment observes that the keywords in Article 30 are ‘of their own choice.’

• It held ‘choice’ to be the dominant word.

• The then Chief Justice Das said that ‘the content of the article is as wide as the choice of the particular minority can make it’.

• In the present case, a minority institution may want additional qualifications over and above the NEET score.

• In that case, denial of such additional and superior qualifications undermines its choice.

• Due to centralized counseling, several minority institutions, and private medical colleges are unable to fill their seats.

• This is an encroachment of their rights.

• Moreover, every vacant seat is a national loss. COVID-19 has only demonstrated India’s extremely poor doctor-population ratio.

Way ahead:

• In T.M.A. Pai Foundation case, the Court had held that admission by the management can be by a common entrance test held by “itself or by the State/University”.

• Notably, here, universities and states were treated on a par, and the admission tests conducted by them as well.

• In all, an admission process must be fair and transparent rather than just one test for all institutions.

• It is nobody’s case that minority institutions can grant admission to their whims and fancies.

• But if such an institution follows an identifiable or reasonable methodology, it deserves exemption from a common admission test.


Prelims Questions:

Q.1) With reference to the Inter-State Migrant Workmen (Regulation of Employment and Conditions of Service) Act, 1979, consider the following statements:

1. It is applicable to every establishment and contractor that employs five or more migrant workmen from other States; or if it had employed five or more such workmen on any day in the preceding 12 months.

2. The principal employer can employ inter-State workmen without a certificate of registration from the relevant authority.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?
(a) 1 only
(b) 2 only
(c) Both 1 and 2
(d) Neither 1 nor 2

Answer: A

Mains Questions:

Q.1) Does NEET really promote merit? How important is the differential treatment?

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