Daily Current Events – 23rd May 2016


The (non) Necessity of NEET

You can judge how mature a society is by looking at its education sector. The Indian state even after 70 years of Independence is certainly not looking good from that angle. So how exactly are doctors made in the worlds largest democracy? What is the NEET (National Eligibility and Entrance Test) ? Why is this the subject of so much misinformation ? Here is a shot at clearing the air.

First, this is not about the legal issues surrounding NEET. The legal issues are at a lower level and not very interesting.

The two main legal issues are

1) does the MCI have statutory authority being merely an administrative agency using delegated powers to run roughshod over the states ?

2) can NEET be imposed on minority medical colleges?

Let’s try a Q&A format.

How many seats for MBBS in India?

The rough stats are as follows. India has about 50,000 medical seats at the undergraduate level. Roughly 55% are in private colleges and 45% in government colleges. Of the 55% in the private sector, 50-60% are with minority private colleges and the rest with non-minority colleges. Of the 45% in government colleges the vast majority are with state government. The notable ones with the Central government being AIIMS, AFMC.

 

Can private medical colleges admit purely based on money?

India hasn’t been able to solve the central problem of education at school or college level. It has a love-hate relationship with the private providers. The main issue is if you granted a free pass to the minorities (linguistic and religious) due to the way the constitution is interpreted you simply have to do so for the others. This dilemma has not been resolved to this day and is currently the site of the main strategic battle in India.

In the 90’s there were two landmark cases you need to know about that shaped the current situation. The first wasMohini Jain vs Govt of Karnataka. In that case, the court ruled that private colleges could charge no more than what government medical colleges did. Obviously, that kicked the private institutes hard and it was clear they were all going to go bust and the government was in no shape to pick up the demand. So they retried it in another case called Unnikrishnan vs State of AP which established “cross subsidy” as a principle that exists to this day. The idea is you could split the seats into ‘free seats’ and charge a higher fee for some other students and use that to subsidize the former category.

Contrary to what people think private colleges cannot take all their seats and simply sell them to the highest bidder. Transparently or non-transparently. This is how it works, roughly with minor variations across states.

  1. About 40% of all seats are given to state governments – they are filled by merit list created by a state government-administered test. The fees are comparable to government colleges.
  2. About 30-40% are filled by another test – usually as a result of a consensual agreement. This is COMED-K (in Karnataka) and MCET (Andhra) similar tests exists everywhere. The fees are fixed and are much higher than the government seats.
  3. About 10-20% are with the managements to be allocated via a transparent process.
  4. 15% is the quota for Non Resident Indians !!! (believe it or not) The rationale for this quota is that foreign Indians are usually rich and can afford to cross subsidize the others!

So only the 3) and 4) intake can some hanky panky happen. Let us go a little deeper.

What is scope of NEET ?

NEET is an eligibility and entrance test. The test would create a single merit list nationwide. From that single list states and colleges can carve out their own lists based on categories. The rule is that within a category the inter-se ranking is preserved.

NEET would remove quota system for OBC

Absolutely not. NEET has nothing to do with the caste quotas. What will happen is they will take the NEET merit list, remove all the non OBC students and voila you have a OBC Merit List. This will be used to fill the Vertical Quotas for OBCs in all state and central medical colleges.   Similarly for SC/ST/OBC-1/OBC-2A/ what not. You take one list and derive many lists.

NEET will not add a single extra seat.

All the seat sharing arrangements stay put. All the state government domicile quotas stay in place. All the caste based quotas also stay as is. The NRI quota which is outside NEET also stays as is.

The only thing NEET does is force all the existing seat sharing arrangments to draw from a single national merit list by categorizing it. For example : a TN State government would take the national merit list and throw out all non-TN students and derive a state merit list. Not a single new seat will be added.

Will NEET break the Mafia Nexus and throw open seat to poor students?

First of all the “mafia nexus” as alleged by some activists in a letter to the President is an interesting beast. The real question is WHY there is a politician and “mafia” nexus in such a high echelon & knowledge based sector like medical colleges? The reason for this is the sectarianism and capture of this vital sector by malafide players.

The sector is not seeing participation from eminent philanthropists rather by those with the political connections to get this, that ,or the other license approved. NEET does not address this at all. So let’s take it easy on the Mafia , they are here to stay. NEET or no NEET.

Will NEET allow poorer students to access seats denied to them ?

Well, the jury is out on this one too.

See this from the angle of a poor or middle class student. If you rank high enough in the state entrance tests, even today you can afford an MBBS seat. If you don’t kill it in the state government exam but make it to the private exams (COMEDK etc) you can still become a doctor if you can scrape together about 6-10L/year. If you are poor and you fail to make the grade in either of these types of exams – essentially the door is closed.

Now if you are rich, things could be different.   If you screw up the state exam as well as the private exam, you still have a shot using the ‘management quota’. There are very few seats totally at the discretion of the management that they can just give to anyone with the cash. Still you could play some games , such as dummy candidate vacated spots, lack of enforcement in politically powerful private colleges, and buy a seat for yourself. This is what they mean when they say ‘Donation seat”. This is rampant and despicable. The thing is NEET is not the way to kill this. Better laws that don’t grant   any monopoly status and better policy is the way to nail them.

NEET and transparent process and middle class

Be careful when you use the term ‘transparent process. A process could be fully transparent and still be of no use to you because you cant afford it. There is a very famous medical college on the west coast of India which has a transparent exam, fully clean fees (cheques only) and cost 25Lakhs/year. NEET will not change this. If you cant afford something pre-NEET , you will not be able to afford it post-NEET.

What are the arguments against NEET in principle vs the way Supreme Court is pushing it

The touch stone   is the so called ‘doctrine of legitimate expectation’. Lakhs of kids across the country have prepared for the exams in a certain way, using a certain method, inside a certain syllabus. They are able to invest so much effort into the preparations only because they assume institutional stability. This is not just a peripheral issue to them, but the main focus of all their activities over 2-3 years. You cant just walk in and disrupt like that with a diktat from top.

Especially when the new exam is designed to favour students of a particular board (CBSE). There are tiny nuanced differences even between boards of high standards like AP and Bengal and CBSE. Maybe Physics goes a bit further in one side in NCERT, maybe Biology is slightly different in one. These tiny matters may not rock the boat of these clueless activists but could mean the difference between doctor or not for these kids.

The next objection is imposition of one syllabus, NCERT. Before a single exam regime like NEET is imposed there needs to be concerted effort to bring up all the states to a single or atleast comparable academic standard.

NEET destroys institutions.   For Andhra students, EAMCET is a way of life, a pivotal institution around which their entire high school life is planned. The exam itself is not just a piece of paper, there are actual people, rules, psychometrics, exam logistics, counselling. An entire ecosystem that has seen decades of real world use and absorbed and adapted to various local pulls and pushes. Think about it. Why would you lose this? Or if you wanted to lose this – why would you do it just because of some spite over how rich kids get in easy?

Will NEET lower fees?

Not really. NEET by itself has nothing to do with fee regulation. Few probable predictions –

  1. Category 1 : NEET (low fee merit list)
  2. Category 2 : NEET (high fee merit list) for the current 30% under private exam
  3. Category 3: The mgmt quota will take from NEET but hike fees substantially for all. So will accept 40Lakhs/year and take in NEET order.
  4. Category 4: NRI quota (outside NEET anyway) – this monstrosity needs a separate post by itself

Therefore what will likely happen is due to the loss of selection autonomy, private colleges will simply hike the fees across the board. Remember they can do this because you admitted they also have political backing. As an illustration. Imagine that the mgmt quota hiked the fees to 30L/year and then used NEET to pick. Is that such a momentous improvement over the old method where the nominal fees was 10L/year but you could bribe your way in with 40-1Cr. This is the real benefit of NEET.

 

IIT exam is based on NCERT. Why you no complain?

The difference is you can become an engineer without an IIT exam. You cant become a doctor without NEET. In other words, IIT (JEE Adv) is one of many exams and NEET is a single exam regime.

USA does MCAT – why are you jumping ?

MCAT Is not administered by the US Government. It is a exam by a consortium of medical schools. The analogy is to COMED and other private exams. Second Medical schools use MCAT only as one marker. Almost all US medical schools have additional tests and interviews that can rearrange or disturb the MCAT merit order. This is not how NEET works. Colleges cant screen afterwards.

But surely a single test is better instead of dozens?

This is debatable. If a single test emerges out of a voluntary arrangement of various providers , such as in MCAT, that is desirable. The reason being it is Extremely expensive to create a test that conforms to certain statistical shapes. It is dead easy to create tests that simply result in thousands of candidates scoring 100% and the shape is generally flat and bunched at the top. This is what we are doing now. Given these costs, various colleges might decide on their own accord to come together and amortize the costs.

Given the diversity of boards, the availability and maturity levels of local access to coaching, and the knowledge gaps even within coaching centres — multiple exams like they exist today are the best. Multiple exams also gives you multiple chances. Not just to convert failure to success but from success (low) to a high success (ace) – that gives you options.  .

So what about Vyapam?

Remember Vyapam involved government administered exams at the core. In fact   Vyapam can be  used as an argument against NEET.

  • In 2015, AIPMT (now known as NEET-1) was leaked, in 2011 the AIIMS paper was leaked. Just because an exam is conducted by government doesn’t mean it is foolproof.

If you had multiple exams and institutions had control, then the effects of a leak in a single exam is not catastrophic. If you put all your eggs in the NEET basket then a leak in that exam will be calamitous and ruin the lives of many.

Grade inflation and NEET

Say all the states threw away such good exams like EAMCET, and many private exams, and we were merrily doing NEET for 2-3 years. There is nothing that will prevent a future government from making NEET dead easy to achieve social balancing.

 Finally , the grand idea of all – Idea of India

Justice Kabir pointed it out exactly. There is simply no way NEET can be forced on minorities without a dramatic and new reading down of Article 30.

Also in true Idea of India fashion , we might well end up with an evil lie, ( a compromise that adds layer upon layer of anomalies to what is a simple judgment of Justice Kabir.


Why sea ice cover around Antarctica is rising

Why has the sea ice cover surrounding Antarctica been increasing slightly, in sharp contrast to the drastic loss of sea ice occurring in the Arctic Ocean? A new NASA-led study has found the geology of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean is responsible.

The researchers used satellite radar, sea surface temperature, land form and bathymetry (ocean depth) data to study the physical processes and properties affecting Antarctic sea ice.

They found that two persistent geological factors — the topography of Antarctica and the depth of the ocean surrounding it — are influencing winds and ocean currents, respectively, to drive the formation and evolution of Antarctica’s sea ice cover and help sustain it.

 The researchers analysed radar data from NASA’s QuikScat satellite from 1999 to 2009 to trace the paths of Antarctic sea ice movements and map its different types.

They focused on the 2008 growth season, a year of exceptional seasonal variability in Antarctic sea ice coverage.

Analyses

Their analyses revealed that as sea ice forms and builds up early in the sea ice growth season, it gets pushed offshore and northward by winds, forming a protective shield of older, thicker ice that circulates around the continent.

The persistent winds, which flow down slope off the continent and are shaped by Antarctica’s topography, pile ice up against the massive ice shield, enhancing its thickness.

This band of ice, which varies in width from roughly 100 to 1,000 km, encapsulates and protects younger, thinner ice in the ice pack behind it from being reduced by winds and waves. The team also used QuikScat radar data to classify the different types of Antarctic sea ice.

Older, thicker sea ice returns a stronger radar signal than younger, thinner ice does. They found the sea ice within the protective shield was older and rougher (due to longer exposure to wind and waves), and thicker (due to more snow accumulation).

As the sea ice cover expands and ice drifts away from the continent, areas of open water form behind it on the sea surface, creating “ice factories” conducive to rapid sea ice growth, the researchers said.


 

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By | 2016-05-24T08:21:40+00:00 May 24th, 2016|Daily Current Events|1 Comment
  • Apercu

    Thank for such detailed coverage of the NEET issue. So far, one has read pro-NEET views. This piece presents the other side succinctly. Thank you again. Keep up the good show.