Rat race or reform? Exploring need for tweaks in examination system amid NEET row

Rat race or reform? Exploring need for tweaks in examination system amid NEET row

The unexpected early release of NEET 2024 results has led to widespread backlash from students, parents, and educators. Allegations of inefficiency and unfairness have sparked protests and calls for reform.

NEET 2024 Results Controversy: Students Demand Reform NEET 2024 Results Controversy: Students Demand Reform

Following the announcement of the NEET 2024 results, the National Testing Agency (NTA) has faced immense backlash from the students, parents and teaching community. After releasing the result on 4th of June, instead of the expected date which was 14th of June, surprisingly on the same day as that of the election result, the efficiency of NTA and the NEET exams have been under scrutiny, mainly because 67students have scored full marksi.e. 720 in contrast to two or three candidates in the past few years, along with some students having scored 718 and 719, which are impossible under the +4/-1 marking scheme followed. Some students also claim that the marks they have obtained are much lesser than what they expected.  


Under the current societal norms and stereotypes, Engineering and MBBS are the two degrees which hold most respect, which leads thousands and lakhs of children and teens to aspire and be passionate about being an engineer or a doctor, for which they are required to clear the JEE and NEET exams respectively. But with the increasing cutoffs each year and academic pressure and competition, many students fail to clear the examinations, more of such expected in 2024, because of the significant rise of scores. Hence the question of reform arises to address the situation and find a way to increase opportunities for students to take part in their desired course without relying on just one exam. 


With an exceedingly high increase of cutoff being expected by various agencies and experts and coaching centers, rumors of paper leak and rumors that the unexpected releasing of results was to avoid media attention, the NTA’s efficiency has been under jeopardy, and hence the giving rise to the question, is reform necessary?


Grace Marking, its unforeseen consequences and bias

Addressing the impossible scores like 718 and 719, the NTA claims that it gave away grace marks to compensate for the loss of time of the students in their respected centers of examination.Apart of the statement released by the NTA is as follows:


“The loss of examination time was ascertained and such candidates were compensated with grace marks. 
So, candidate’s marks can be 718 or 719 also.”


This has raised questions on the authority and resulted in mass criticism towards the questionable decision from the student community.


There are cases in which students were asked to sign with a different timing than the one at which they were handed their question paper and OMR but were not compensated with any grace marks. This again raises concern about the efficiency of the exams and injustice to hardworking students.


A student from Guwahati also claimed that her center had clocks which didn’t work properly. While, following it she and the aspirants in the same room as hers believed that they had a lot of time left to answer the questions and fill the OMR. However, to their surprise, the invigilator shockingly declared that the time is over and collected their papers, without giving them the time to at least encircle their responses. No compensation in the form of grace marks we reported by her. 



Voicing concerns and inciting protests

Alakh Pandey, the director of the platform PHYSICS WALLAH, which provides quality online education, has raised his voice against the perceived injustice towards the students. He and team has boldly claimed that 8 students who scored full marks were from the same center and that this is not a coincidence but more than that. This is despite the fact that his PHYSICS WALLAH platform has been successful in achieving good results in NEET 2024. 


People from various states are also raising their voices in the form of protests. A significant protest took place in Kanpur, with aspirants chanting slogans like “NTA, your tyranny won’t continue”. Their demands include the conduction of NEET 2024 again properly and without any irregularities which were seen after the declaration of the results.Priyanka Gandhi Vadra, General Secretary of Indian National congress, and MK Stalin, the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu also took to twitter and supported the demands of the aspirants by criticizing the poor conduct, with the latter even calling it anti-poor.


Rethinking board assessments and ideas of reform

Teachers from different schools also believe that with the increasing rat-race of lakhs of aspirants and coaching centers focusing only on NEET and JEE entrance exams, the board exams are also becoming redundantand only a hurdle in the way of an aspirants.Moreover, they claim that aspirants no longer wish to understand and delve deeper into the concepts, but only want to study the portion which is required for entrance exams. More and more students taking admission in integrated classroom programs substantiates this belief. 


Is it possible to bring a reform which takes into consideration the performance in board exams, NEET and JEE or any other exam such as the CUET to calculate an aggregate score of the student by a body of qualified professionals (other than the NTA) sharing power among the different bodies and accordingly provide admission in the Engineering and MBBS course? Or is it necessary for the students to be a part of the rat-race to achieve their goals?


Such an aggregate score will help to determine an aspirant’s capability of solving problems on varying scale and also provide more opportunity to students to showcase their potential over a period of time instead of relying on one exam conducted only once in a year. Power sharing among different conducting bodies can also give rise to a system of checks and balances ensuring more integrity of the results and conducting panel which might lead to more acceptability of the same by the students and parents. The demands of the students also echo the plea for transparency, and people are claiming that the transparency was close to none with very less information about normalization formula used by the NTA. Power sharing would also lead to more transparency which might lead students to believe in conducting panel, thus restoring the reputation of the NEET exam.


Unvoiced issues and suggestions 

Another issue that most aspirants reported to have faced this year is the last moment release of admit cards and few necessary information which hinders the study durations and thus confidence of the aspirants. For example, the NEET 2024 admit card was released only around 3 days prior to the exam, and many aspirants faced problem to download it as the captcha, even when filled correctly, denied while some others faced issues to download it due to the pop up of “candidate’s photo not uploaded” despite the photo being uploaded and visible on screen.


Hence, many students are of the opinion thatit should be mandatory for the NTA to release all the necessary documents including the admit at least 2 weeks prior to the examination to give the aspirants ample amount of time to be ready without stressing themselves so much that their mental health is hampered.


Other than putting all the blame on NTA, can a change in societal stereotype and increase in information about the opportunities offered by other courses lead to reform? Will it motivate students to explore fields other than Medical and Engineering? 


Parents, teachers, online personas can play a huge role in this initiative by supporting the students to take up courses other than medical and engineering and build a future for themselves. It will also help to change the mindset of the people and look at the wide range of opportunities that the other fields provide. In the present, students are even unwilling to take up courses like BDS (Bachelor of Dental Surgery) as they feel that there will not be any respect by the people and their MBBS counterparts and no job satisfaction. Similar is the case for various BSc courses. These courses are often overlooked because of the craze for the medical field.


Summarizing and trying to come to a conclusion, we find out that the questions and possibilities of reforms are many but answers are little. Rat-Race or Reform? The answer seems clear yet is uncertain. But the answer to this one question will help many ‘failures’ build a future that would be different from their earlier expectations, but still better than their worst nightmares. It will take not one, not two but a collective approach and desire to reform to increase opportunities for the youngsters who bear the weight of the future of the country.

Edited By: Krishna Medhi
Published On: Jun 09, 2024