Do aspiring medicos need a ‘test’ that eludes answers?

medicos

The blind-men-and-the-elephant fable is all about our limited exposure to specific areas, and fragmented perception of a giant standing in our midst. Understanding the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for MBBS/BDS admissions and its impact, too, is nothing less piecemeal.

NEET was held on May 7 and its results were declared on June 23. The nation saw 11, 38, 890 students writing the test in more than 1,900 centres. While an overwhelming majority of students wrote it in English, 47,853 opted for Gujarati, 34,417 chose Bengali, 15,206 wrote in Tamil, 3,810 in Assamese, 1,766 in Telugu, 978 in Marathi, 712 in Kannada and 452 in Odia. It’s been almost a month since the results were declared, but students, parents and academic planners are still in the dark about key details such as category-wise pass details, language-wise marks and ranks, and state-wise qualifiers and toppers.

Leave alone parents, even state governments are not in possession of any such data to prepare their students for future versions of NEET or handle admission procedures arising out of NEET-2017.

Having waited in vain, the Tamil Nadu government did a quick back-of-the-envelope computation and unveiled a freshly brewed policy of reserving 85% of the MBBS/BDS seats for state board students, leaving out 15% for students from CBSE and other boards. The policy was destined to be struck down, as it was not founded on any hard data. While there was not much doubt about the fact that CBSE candidates would walk away with much of the seats on offer, in the absence of specific data the government could not show what necessitated the policy.

Tamil Nadu, today, does not have a merit list for the state, rank details of open category, BC, MBC and SC/ST candidates and what are the indicative MBBS/BDS seats available to them. If at all the state has any data on these, it must have been manually verified and compiled out of the filled-in applications submitted by the 50,000-odd MBBS/BDS aspirants.

For the record, MCI and the Union government jointly piloted the NEET regimen and got the Supreme Court nod despite objection from states like Tamil Nadu. After the examination was conducted and results were declared by the CBSE, the director-general of health services (DGHS) under Union health ministry took over the counselling process.

On May 12, when the Tamil Nadu government released its Plus Two results, it unveiled a tranche of data, analysing threadbare all aspects of the examination. A total of 8, 93,262 students took the examination, and

8, 22,838 cleared it. But, when it comes to NEET, the CBSE is yet to release anything other than results and a handful of toppers. If only CBSE uploads the entire list of qualified candidates on its website, there are state governments, private enthusiasts and academic counsellors to do the data mining. There are softwares to unravel the pass and rank dynamics of the result, which would help governments to schedule their counselling and training better.

So far, CBSE and DGHS have treated parents and state governments with utter contempt and sit on NEET result details like a treasure-guarding demon. Such opacity helps none. Perhaps these central agencies are scared that release of caste-wise and language-wise data would strengthen arguments that NEET was tailor-made to suit the needs of well-to-do, convent-educated, urban populace, at the cost of the rural under-privileged. Allegations that some languages like Gujarati got a ‘less tough’ question paper too need to be kept in mind. Non-release of result details only adds fuel to such speculations.

While the CBSE washes its hands off saying it was only mandated to conduct NEET, DGHS makes it clear it does only the counselling part of it. In case of any doubt over categories mentioned in the NEET score card or options locked by candidates, there is no single window system to clarify doubts. While mails to designated DGHS authorities never get a response, CBSE’s regional unit which has jurisdiction over entire south India and stretches up to even Maharashtra, says NEET was being handled by a hub in Delhi.
Many journalists and parents who were able to get through to the ‘hub’ were informed rather curtly that there were only four people handling the entire NEET, and so no information could be parted with.In the absence of a neutral agency with sufficient infrastructure and enough hands, why design and implement NEET at all?

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