In keeping with the series of experiments that the government has been subjecting the medical education sector to, the recent Supreme Court order dating 28th April, 2016 also falls in this category. The order instructs the CBSE, MCI and central health government to work in tandem and conduct a common entrance exam for all the medical colleges in all the states. Minority institutions like CMC Vellore also fall under this order. The order states that, there will be a single exam for admission to all the state colleges, called the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) which will be conducted in two phases. The first phase of which was conducted on 1st May, 2016 and the order directed that another phase is to be conducted on 24th July, 2016 for those candidates who have not registered for the AIPMT exam originally and a combined result of both the phases will be released on 17th August.

Now, this decision leaves many questions unanswered and raises some new doubts and most importantly, a large part of the students’ community are left confused and further nervous. Firstly, what is not clear is why the Supreme Court is pressing that this system of common entrance test be implemented from this year itself and that too in such a rushed manner even though till a few months back all states were preparing to conduct their own exams. The order by the Supreme Court was passed regardless of opposition from states like Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and minority institutions like CMC Vellore. In recent times, a student begins preparing for the medical entrance exams two years prior to the time they actually sit for the exam. Now, the announcement of such a common entrance exam and the change in pattern thus, so close to some of the entrance exams and also after some institutions had already conducted their entrance exam for the year, puts undue pressure on these candidates who had been working hard since the past two years.

Even though general education guidelines followed in all the states is similar in all states but, there still remains to be a disparity to some extent as to the stress laid on various topics by central and state boards. If a common entrance exam is to be held and students coming from any state in India are not to be at an advantage then, first and foremost the syllabus followed in all states should be uniform. Till this process is not set into action, candidates might be at a disadvantage depending on the board of education they followed.

In 2013, NEET was labelled unconstitutional; one of the reasons for this was the fact that, it did not take into account the linguistic diversity. Since, the exam was conducted only in Hindi and English and regional languages were not considered. If the authorities expect the common entrance exam model to be a success, this point has to be taken into account because not everybody passed out of Hindi or English medium schools. The common entrance exam also threatens the autonomy of minority institutions like CMC Vellore and Aligarh Muslim University.

The rationale for conducting a common exam isn’t all that ridiculous albeit the creases that are evident need to be ironed out. A common entrance exam will save the students from filling out scores of application forms, missing out on a few, being subjected to malpractices at the hand of the management of certain institutions. Thus, the entire admission process will be made more transparent. But, it has to be ensured that, these goals are actually realised and that, unethical practices like giving admission in return of capitation fees or donations in private colleges etc can be curbed.

Finally, those in decision-making positions should cease to subject the students to experimentation as has been seen since the past few years. They should sit down and work out a structure safe-guarding the interests of the students and not be in such a hurry to implement every new idea they come up with.

9th May, 2016