Union HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar
A MONTH after HRD Minister Prakash Javadekar announced that the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) will be conducted online and twice a year from 2019, the government is likely to roll back the decision.
The NEET, which is the gateway for admissions to medical institutions across the country, will continue as an annual pen-and-paper test, at least till 2019, The Indian Express has learnt. In all probability, the CBSE, and not the National Testing Agency or NTA, will conduct the examination even next year.
The HRD Ministry’s keenness to put off any changes in the NEET’s conduct is influenced by the Health Ministry, which fears an online (read computer-based) test would put students from rural and economically poor families at a disadvantage.
Addressing a press conference on July 6, Javadekar had announced that the newly formed NTA would now conduct national- level entrance examinations — NET, NEET, JEE (Mains) — that were organised by the CBSE. According to the examination calendar released by him, JEE (Mains) would be held in January and April, NEET was suppose to be conducted in February and May. National Eligibility Test or NET would be conducted in December.
The Health Ministry, The Indian Express has learnt, sent a letter to the HRD Ministry within three days stating that the public announcement on the NEET was made “without formal consultation” with them.
In its letter, the Health Ministry listed eight problems that it anticipated because of Javadekar’s announcement. Apart from concerns that a test in online mode would put poor and rural students at a disadvantage, the Health Ministry had a problem with the examination calendar announced for the NEET.
“It is proposed that the NTA would conduct exam in February and May. Typically, Class 12 students also appear in the Board exams during February-March period. This would suggest a continuous period of 4-5 months of exams for the students and may add to the pressure on students,” the Health Ministry’s letter states.
“The NTA would have to maintain a large question bank to cater to the proposed patter of exam. With 16 sessions in a year, the bank is likely to be depleted of novelty very early. A potential misuse could be coaching centres fielding dummy candidates in every session to note the questions asked in the exam,” the letter also states.
Following this, a meeting was held between officers of the Health and HRD ministries. The latter is learnt to have agreed to maintain status quo, only for the NEET, till 2019.