Confusion over NEET 2021 persists
New Delhi: The mounting suspense and confusion over the conduct of NEET 2021 has still seen no solution even after the Ministries of Education and Health along with the National Testing Agency (NTA) had a thorough discussion on the matter.
On 25th January, senior officials of the Ministries and NTA met to decide the possibility of conducting NEET 2021 twice and in computer-based test mode.
Now, according to a recent report by the Hindustan Times, the health Ministry is not in favour of a proposal by the ministry of education to hold the entrance test for admission to medical and dental courses twice a year.
Since the conclusion of NEET 2020, the MBBS and BDS aspirants across the country are eagerly waiting for the National Testing Agency (NTA) to release the timetable for the entrance test for the next academic session. Moreover, the aspirants are worried about the examination pattern of the NEET 2021 while at the same anticipating major changes in its mode of conduction as well.
Last month, the NTA, the exam conducting body for NEET, was looking at the possibility of conducting the NEET exam twice a year and in online mode. If implemented, this can be a big relief for candidates seeking admission to medical colleges. Asking for the same, the NTA had written to the Ministry of Health for this and sought suggestions as to whether such a possibility exists.
NEET, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test is a big competitive exam, which is conducted once a year only on pen-paper mode for admissions to MBBS and BDS courses across the country. This year for NEET 2020, 13,66,945 students participated and over 15,97,435 candidates registered for it.
For NEET, there are two main stakeholders, NTA and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW). The syllabus is finalized by the MoHFW through an independent body. Earlier it used to be the Medical Council of India (MCI), but now that has been dissolved and hence the task falls upon the National Medical Commission (NMC). After NMC approves the syllabus, NTA takes over as the exam conducting body. The NTA role is restricted to conducting the exam, evaluating it, and declaring results.
While giving this exam, the aspirants go through a lot of stress, if the exam is conducted more than once a year, then the stress of the students will resultantly be less. Besides, this year's academic year being very chaotic due to the coronavirus epidemic and candidates faced a lot of pressure.
More so, the Union Ministry of Education had earlier decided to hold the JEE Main Examination for admissions to engineering colleges online four times in 2021. After the announcement of the JEE Main 2021 schedule, all eyes are on National Testing Agency, NTA and Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal for the announcement on NEET 2021.
The delay is evidently due to the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent postponement of Class 10th and 12th exams, but soon after the Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal 'Nishank' made the aforesaid announcement on JEE Main 2021, many medical and dental aspirants took to Twitter to seek clarity on NEET 2021 exam dates and pattern.
As hinted earlier by the Education Minister, Dr. Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, the announcement on the medical entrance exam date could be made soon. Additionally, recently the Ministry of Education has confirmed via PIB press release that the syllabus of NEET 2021 or any other national level entrance exam will not be changed. However, there may be a change in the exam pattern to ensure students with reduced syllabus are not affected.
With the meeting held recently, it was expected that the exam date, registration date, mode of the exam and its frequency will be announced soon, altogether.
However, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is not in favour of holding NEET twice a year. The said 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.
The official further 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.
Moreover, the minister has now 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 informed the daily, requesting anonymity.
"We are yet to hear the final word on this from the government of India," Dr Aruna V Vanikar, who is the president of the Undergraduate Medical Education Board, further informed the daily.
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 NTA's call.
Last year, NEET 2020 saw various deliberations in the Supreme Court. While there were many students who moved the Supreme Court against the exams being held during a pandemic, when the exam took place in September, just around 10% of students were absent.
Another official told HT 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.
Education Minister Pokhriyal has been actively engaging with students over the past months, keeping them updated with the latest exam notifications. Every time his webinar is declared, more than half a million students across the country tune into a live address broadcasted simultaneously on Facebook and Twitter with the hope that this time they might get a clue on NEET 2021 dates. The aspirants have been requesting the minister and NTA to conduct NEET 2021 two times.