The Supreme Court in March this year, allowed the Union Government and the Medical Council of India (MCI) to conduct NEET, a single entrance examination for admissions to undergraduate and postgraduate medical courses in all colleges across the country from the next academic year.
The State Cabinet in its meeting on November 17, however, was divided on adopting the new system in Karnataka with two ministers airing diametrically opposite views. While Higher Education Minister Dr V S Acharya felt that students from the State would find it difficult to attempt NEET, Medical Education Minister S A Ramdas was firm on going ahead with the single entrance examination. The Cabinet decided to refer the issue to a group of senior ministers to discuss the merits and demerits of the proposal.
Acharya is of the view that the syllabus for pre-university courses in the State is not on a par with that of Central Board for Secondary Education (CBSE) and hence Karnataka students will be at a disadvantage in cracking the NEET.
“We should not put our students to inconvenience. Our PU syllabus does not match with that of the CBSE. The first PU syllabus will be upgraded in 2012 and the second year syllabus in the next year. We, therefore, will join the NEET in 2014. Besides, our teachers too should be trained to teach the new syllabus. But we are not against NEET,” he said. He was categorical that the State will not introduce the NEET in 2012. He said the government will approach the Supreme Court explaining the practical difficulties.
However, the conclusion of Acharya without any interaction with stakeholders – students and academicians – has raised eyebrows. It is apparent that the people at the helm are not willing to antagonise the powerful lobby of private medical colleges, more active particularly in the coastal districts.
The MCI is likely to conduct NEET for MBBS next May and the State government has two options before it – either to go for the new system or contest it in the court.
If the government elects to join NEET, students will have to be trained for the new system which may include learning additional syllabus. And the second option may lead to a long-drawn legal battle, keeping the stakeholders on their toes.
In case the court upholds the proposed test, students will be left with very short time for preparation. Tamil Nadu is out of the NEET purview since it has obtained a stay from the High Court even before the Supreme Court okayed the single entrance examination.
Official sources say that it is easy to prepare students for the new entrance examination rather than fighting a protracted legal battle.
The government has to make its stand clear early as students, as of now, would get full six months to prepare for the examination. Classes can be conducted for rural students through television channels while web-based coaching comes in handy for urban students.
The Karnataka Examination Authority conducted classes through Doordarshan last year.
The sources point out that 1,000 more seats will be available under the national-level examination system and hence, meritorious students would be at an advantage.
According to sources, the merit list will be drawn separately for each state and hence there will be no competition from students of other states. However, in the absence of a differential fee structure, the fee may go up in all likelihood.
Fears of private colleges
The stakes are high for private medical colleges. They fear that the NEET may snatch their control over the ‘lucrative’ management quota seats, which fetch them crores of rupees. Further, the new regime compels them for strict adherence to the MCI guidelines. Failing to comply with the guidelines may attract stringent punishment including jail term, sources said.
However, official sources said that private colleges need not have any reservation on the NEET if they are not “selling the seats at exorbitant price.” The management quota will continue even under the new system.
For the year 2011, the government and private unaided colleges shared the seats in 60:40 ratio, in terms of a consensual agreement.
The agreement was reached keeping in abeyance the Karnataka Professional Educational Institutions (Regulation of Admission and Fixation of Fee) Act, 2006. According to the Act, the government should fix the fee on the basis of recommendations of a committee headed by a retired judge.
The government chose not to accept the recommendations of Justice Padmaraj Committee on fee structure and instead preferred the consensual agreement route, as done in previous years.
Medical Education Minister Ramdas said the government should go in for NEET and do away with the consensual agreement arrangement. “We should enforce the 2006 Act and the government must have its final say in determining the fee structure in all categories of colleges. More meritorious students will secure admissions this way,” he said.
K H Gopalakrishne Gowda, Principal Secretary, Medical Education, termed NEET as the best method for students since they need not appear for multiple examinations to secure a single seat.
“There is no third party inspection into preparation of merit list by private institutions. Let there be a common merit list. Private colleges will not lose their quota of seats and let there be transparency in fee collection too.”
He felt that there would be some problems in going for the single test regime due to difference in syllabus. Gowda said the syllabus needs to be revised so as to make students face intense competition.
Gowda said there was no need to assume that the fee would go up in the absence of a differential fee structure. He said a committee headed by a retired judge works out the fee structure.
“At the same time, we should be practical enough to accept that private colleges can impart quality education if allowed to collect reasonable fees,” he said. With Acharya making his stand clear, there seems to be little task before the group of ministers asked to study the issue. Some private medical universities have invited applications for the PG medical courses commencing next academic year. Any dithering on the part of the government is sure to leave the students in the lurch.