The NEET Solution

Guest article by Dr.Devi Shetty. Devi Shetty is a cardiac surgeon and Chairman and Founder, Narayana Health

I was on the Board of Governors of the Medical Council of India (MCI) in 2010. We conceptualised a single national eligibility exam that addressed the pain of lakhs of aspiring medical students who criss-cross India to write over 100 entrance tests. We proposed a fair and simple test, modelled on examination systems like SAT, GRE, TOEFL. Our proposal was eventually adopted as NEET but sadly, there was no political will to implement it then.
In April this year, Judges of the Supreme Court earned the blessings of lakhs of underprivileged students when they asked the CBSE to implement NEET in 2016, despite opposition from states and individuals across party lines. To understand this opposition, you have to understand that as many as 80 parliamentarians are reported to have stakes in medical colleges.
Let’s try to understand facts behind NEET and dispel some myths.
The total number of MBBS seats, according to the MCI website, is 49,990. Out of this 25,330 are in government medical colleges and 24,660 are in private colleges. Historically, government medical colleges admission happens through AIPMT or CET conducted by various state governments in a transparent manner. Now CET will be replaced by NEET with no major controversy. The controversy over NEET relates to the 24,660 medical seats in private colleges.
Will private colleges lose their “management quota” seats under NEET? No, private medical colleges and minority institutions will continue to have the same number of medical seats as before NEET. However, admission to those seats will be based on NEET ranking, maintaining the objectives of minority institutions and spirit of private enterprise.
Neither will NEET in English adversely affect children from rural India. Most state governments, including states like Karnataka, always conducted CET in English. Fifteen per cent of medical seats across the country are now allotted by the central government through AIPMT conducted by CBSE, which is primarily in English. This year roughly 12 states, including Delhi, MP, Haryana and Odisha, have decided to admit all their students to government medical colleges from AIPMT only.
Historically, for 24,660 MBBS seats in private colleges more than 100 entrance tests are conducted only in English. So there is no change in the language of entrance tests to all the private medical colleges.
Neither are students from government schools handicapped from excelling in NEET. For the 25,330 medical seats in government colleges admission through CET across the country is conducted to assess knowledge of physics, chemistry and biology. Irrespective of the syllabus, the human heart can be taught in only one way.
For 24,660 private medical seats, over 100 entrance tests are done not based on any specific syllabus. Prestigious colleges like CMC Vellore and St John’s Medical College have their own style of conducting entrance tests with integrity, not based on any syllabus.
Historically, children from English medium schools always had greater chances of getting admission to medical colleges, IIT and IAS. NEET cannot change that reality. In 2013, when a vernacular NEET was conducted not a single vernacular language candidate could get admission.
A vital piece of information is concealed from the general public in the whole NEET debate: MBBS is taught only in English. According to MCI regulations, only students who have passed the 12th standard English paper are eligible to join medical college irrespective of their medium of education. Historically, students could not join medical college in India without proficiency in English.
As a student from a Kannada medium school, i really struggled in PUC and first year of MBBS. When English medium students learnt the constitution of the human body, i was struggling to learn English to learn about the human body. But that did not prevent me from getting trained in some of England’s best hospitals.
Neither will bright students from progressive states take away seats from the state quota of weaker states. Each state government will create a separate merit list for their students based on NEET ranking. NEET is just a tool to grade students and make the selection fair, without taking away from a state’s privilege to protect the interest of its students.
The same applies to minority institutions. They retain the privilege of offering seats to the students of their community, NEET will only provide a rank based on which minority institutions can create their merit list in a fair manner.
The time given by the Supreme Court to students to prepare for NEET is not too short either. Most students aspiring to join medical colleges prepare for CET or AIPMT. NEET is not different from existing exams conducted by the government. Time given for preparing for the exam is the same for everyone, standardising conditions for everybody.
I would like to request MCI to convert medical education into an apprenticeship programme like in the West, emphasising skill building rather than physical infrastructure. This will allow conversion of 500 district hospitals in backward parts of the country into medical colleges, with modest investment. In my experience doctors with fire in the belly and magic in their fingers, who have changed the face of medicine, come from deprived backgrounds. NEET is our last chance to give those underprivileged students a fair chance at a medical education, and build a corps of dedicated doctors that will ensure a healthy future for our country.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author's own.

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