IASbhai Daily Editorial Hunt | 16th May 2020
There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.– Paulo Coelho
EDITORIAL HUNT 82:“NEET is not student-friendly, merit-promoting“
SOURCES: THE HINDU EDITORIAL/EDITORIALS FOR UPSC CSE MAINS 2020
Faizan Mustafa is an expert of constitutional law.
NEET is not student-friendly, merit-promoting
In the case of education, over-centralisation is becoming a harsh and painful reality
SYLLABUS COVERED: GS 3:Education
NEET is an assault on the autonomy of universities and higher education institutions, particularly private, unaided ones. Discuss -(GS 3)
- Fault lines in our education system.
- Examination process and its drawbacks.
- Differential treatment !
- “Freedom of individual development is the basis of democracy,” observed the Commission (1948-49) appointed by the Government of India “to report on Indian University Education and suggest improvements and extensions that may be desirable to suit present and future”.
- In such States institutions of higher learning controlled and managed by governmental agencies act like mercenaries, promote the political purposes of the State, make them acceptable to an increasing number of their populations and supply them with the weapons they need.
- We must resist, in the interests of our own democracy, the trend towards the governmental domination of the educational process.”
NEET EXAM AND THE VERDICT :
- But these observations do not seem to have been kept in mind in a judgment this April on the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), by a three-judge Bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Arun Mishra.
- NEET was initially struck down as unconstitutional in Christian Medical College, Vellore (2013) by a 2:1 majority.
- It is ironical that while in all other areas including industrial relations, the government is talking about deregulation, in the case of education, over-centralisation is becoming a harsh and painful reality.
- Similarly in the name of NEET or the state’s power to “regulate”, the rights of unaided private institutions and minority institutions cannot be violated as regulation cannot annihilate minority character.
- Certainly minorities do not have right to “mal-administer” their institutions yet due to admission mal-practices practised by the few institutions, denial of Article 30 rights and Article 19(g) rights of private unaided institutions is absolutely wrong.
- SUPPLEMENTARY TESTS : We cannot overlook some of the advantages a student has if there are multiple tests: if he falls ill or has not done well in one test, he will still have a chance to qualify in another without losing a year.
- RIGHT TO CHOOSE : It gives a student a right to select an institution of his choice.
- Is NEET really student friendly? For example, Tamil Nadu has been opposing NEET.
- COACHING FACTORIES : With NEET and similar other national tests such as the Joint Entrance Examination and Common Law Admission Test, coaching institutes are prospering; since most of them are in cities, poorer students from a rural background and who have studied in the vernacular medium face a disadvantage.
- SYLLABUS VARIATION : There is also large-scale variation in the syllabus and standards of the Central Board of Secondary Education and State boards.
- TRANSPARENCY : The NEET paper was leaked twice in the last four years; therefore, there is not much confidence in NEET’s fairness and transparency.
- TRANSLATION : In the 2018 NEET, as many as 49 questions had errors in Tamil translation leading to a Madras High Court order to award four marks for each of the 49 wrongly translated questions, or 196 marks to all 1.07 lakh candidates of Tamil Nadu.
ELEMENT OF CLASS
- NEET is considered the best option as our judges genuinely think it promotes merit.
- MERIT CONSTRUCTION : Is it not a fact that the administrators of NEET and judges do believe that the multidimensional construct of merit can be adequately, if not accurately, measured?
- EQUALITY OF OPPRTUNITY : When NEET and other such admission tests do not meet this fundamental criteria, competition cannot be termed as fair and just, and the equality of opportunity becomes illusionary.
- LEFT PORTIONS : There is substantial scholarship in the West (Sacks, Freedle, Wells, Camara & Schmidt) that argues that common admission tests cannot measure abilities that are essential for learning such as imagination, curiosity and motivation.
- BIASED : Empirical research in the United States on standardised common tests has found that these tests are biased against the poorer and underprivileged sections of population, women and minorities.
Thus there is an element of class in NEET that the Indian judiciary has so far overlooked.
- Minority rights are not the violation of the equality provision in Article 14 as the Constitution does permit classification.
- In fact substantive equality as opposed to formal equality, mandates differential treatment.
- There are even hundreds of minority institutions of Hindus as linguistic minorities.
THE SUPREME COURT ITSELF TERMED ARTICLE 30 AS :
- ‘an article of faith’ in Lilly Kurian (1978);
- a ‘sacred obligation’ in Kerala Education Bill (1957);
- ‘the conscience of the nation’ in Ahmedabad St. Xaviers College (1974); ‘
- an absolute right in Rev. Sidhajbhai Sabhai And Others (1962) and
- part of the ‘basic structure’ in Kesavananda Bharati (1973);
- If a minority institution wants additional qualifications over and above the NEET score, denial of such additional and superior qualifications undermines its choice.
- Even if one concedes the necessity of NEET, centralised counselling due to which several minority institutions and private medical colleges are unable to fill their seats is indeed an ‘intolerable encroachment’.
- Moreover, every vacant seat is the national loss.
- COVID-19 has only demonstrated India’s extremely poor doctor-population ratio.
- The universities and state were treated on a par and an admission test by the university was considered as good as a test conducted by the State.
- What a 11-judge Bench really emphasised was that an admission process must be fair and transparent rather than just one test for all institutions.
- Institution follows an identifiable or reasonable methodology of admitting students, the imposition of NEET with mandatory centralised counselling is indeed an unreasonable restriction.
- The Supreme Court has consistently held that Article 30 is not so absolute as to be above the law and regulations made in the true interests of efficiency of instruction, discipline, health, sanitation, morality and public order could be imposed.
- After all, instruction, sanitation, health and discipline will come into play only after candidates are admitted.