Sunday, April 18, 2021

Ministries at odds over NEET exam

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The ministry of health and family welfare is not in favour of a proposal by the ministry of education to hold the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical and dental courses twice a year. This was conveyed to education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal by health minister Harsh Vardhan after consultations with the National Medical Commission (NMC), an official confirmed to the HindustanTimes.

Following this, Pokhriyal made a personal appeal to the health minister to reconsider the matter. “The health minister has now assured (his counterpart) that he will reconsider the decision,’’ an official aware of the development said, requesting anonymity.

Dr Aruna V Vanikar, who is the president of the Undergraduate Medical Education Board, told SNN that a final decision is awaited. “We are yet to hear the final word on this from the government of India.’’

The official cited in the first instance confirmed that Pokhriyal’s pitch for holding the exam more than once , was met with apprehension by health ministry officials,although it was not clear exactly why. The official said that this was after deliberations by the National Medical Commission (NMC), which is responsible for the syllabus of the tests. HT got in touch with chairman of the commission, Dr SC Sharma, who declined comment. “Please ask the health ministry for further details,’’ he said.

A health ministry spokesperson told HT: “It (the proposal) is presently under consideration of the NMC and the ministry.”’ But a second official said the health ministry’s and especially the NMC’s reluctance to give the clearance was because they felt it was within their purview to decide the course of medical exams and not the National Testing Agency’s call.

Pokhriyal’s proposal raised the hopes of thousands of students who were hoping to get two options to take the exam. The education ministry has already announced that the joint entrance examination for admission to engineering colleges will be held online four times a year from this year. The ministry was hoping for a similiar decision for medical students too.

SNN reached out to National Testing Agency head Vineet Joshi, who didn’t respond to queries. The agency wrote formally to the health ministry to allow online exams earlier this month. Its rationale for providing an online option and an alternative date was to make it easier for the 1.5 million candidates who had registered for the exam last time around.

While there were many students who moved Supreme Court against the exams being held during a pandemic, when the exam took place in September, just around 10% of students were absent. The second official said that while fears about Class XII students being distracted by NEET twice a year was a valid concern, the real reason could be the health ministry not being thrilled by MBBS students being selected by the education ministry’s NTA instead of NMC, which controls medical education.

Lawyer Shoeb Alam, who appeared for students in the NEET matter last year, said: “Increasing the frequency of the exam will be a popular move with students as they don’t have to wait another year to take the exam.’’

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