Time to fix NEET, build confidence - Hindustan Times
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Time to fix NEET, build confidence

ByHT Editorial
Jun 13, 2024 09:22 PM IST

Allegations about irregularities must be probed and NTA held accountable. The careers of young people are at stake

The Supreme Court hit the nail on the head when it observed earlier this week that the sanctity of the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) has been compromised. On Thursday, it cancelled grace marks awarded to 1,563 students. But this is only a small part of the mess that threatens to jeopardise the futures of 2.4 million students who spent years preparing for the examination. After all, as an analysis by this newspaper showed, a majority of the 1,563 students scored less than 300 marks out of 720, and cancelling their grace marks would shave off only six people from the 67-strong list of perfect scores. Evidently, the problems roiling this year’s examination are deeper. At the heart of the matter is the unprecedented inflation of marks and the inability of the National Testing Agency (NTA) to offer a cogent explanation.

New Delhi, Jun 12 (ANI): NEET aspirants protest against the alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG examination at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo/Ritik Jain) (Ritik Jain) PREMIUM
New Delhi, Jun 12 (ANI): NEET aspirants protest against the alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG examination at Jantar Mantar, in New Delhi on Wednesday. (ANI Photo/Ritik Jain) (Ritik Jain)

The body, authorised to conduct multiple qualification exams including NEET and CUET, has given a plethora of reasons for the chaos, including systemic and technology issues, discrepancies between old and new textbooks, and time lost in some centres due to circumstances beyond its control. Yet, as experts have pointed out, not one of these reasons can convincingly explain the large-scale arbitrariness in marking. Nearly 70 students have scored a perfect 720, compared to only two in 2023 and none in 2022. The unreasonable spike has played havoc with ranks and cut-offs. Someone scoring 650 placed 28,000 last year but 80,000 this year. That six candidates from the same centre in Faridabad scored 720 has also stoked doubts about the integrity of the testing process. NTA has also fended off allegations of question paper leaks and incorrect answer keys in some of its iterations.

The list of anomalies is too long to ignore or chalk up to coincidence. The government may have denied any leak, but the expert panel it has set up needs to delve deep into what went wrong. Cancelling the June 4 results and conducting a new test should not be off the table. Transparency and public course-correction are needed to restore trust in the process. With the rush of aspirants for medical education, NEET has become an elimination test rather than an examination of the skills needed for prospective healers. There are just 110,000 seats available in 706 medical colleges, of which only 56,405 are in government colleges or institutions backed by the government. Students already face an uphill battle. The least they deserve is a trustworthy and scientific process.

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