There has been great resentment in Assam over the recent decision of the Centre that students aspiring to be doctors and dentists would have to appear for the tiol Eligibility Entrance Test (NEET) and that the selection examition of the State referred to as the Common Entrance Examition (CEE) for the MBBS and BDS courses would not qualify candidates to pursue medical courses. Accordingly, the Assam government has kept in abeyance the scheduled CEE for MBBS and BDS courses. Assam Chief Minister Tarun Gogoi appealed to students to appear for the in NEET to be held on July 24 and urged them not to be confused by the recent developments and to go ahead with their preparations for the NEET. He even indicated that the Assam government would file a review petition on this issue before the Supreme Court. This is what he said: “We fully understand the apprehensions of the students and their parents, and the government has decided to file a review petition before the Supreme Court.”
Despite the fact that education falls in the Concurrent List of Schedule 7 of the Constitution, there is very little to suggest that the Centre has really kept itself fully informed about the standard of education in different States of the Union to ensure that qualifying examitions for different courses of study would be entirely fair to students from different parts of the country. What is often overlooked is that students from even the villages of India should be capable of appearing for qualifying examitions for entrance to medical, dentistry and other technical courses. What is often overlooked by our rulers is that making someone eligible to appear for a qualifying examition is not the same thing as ensuring the candidate a reasoble chance of success on the basis of the kind of education that has preceded such qualifying examitions. As things are now, such qualifying examitions are really meant only for urban students (especially those from metropolitan cities) who have the benefit of the kind of education and the opportunities for additiol coaching for such examitions that expensive urban institutions provide. As such, even though technically such qualifying examitions are open to one and all, the fact remains that they are designed for an exclusive group of urban students and that they keep out students from other backgrounds from the very structuring of such examitions. Before one even goes into the content of such qualifying examitions, one major hurdle to acceptable performance at such examitions is the language in which the test is taken. Quite obviously, students who intend to take the test in English or Hindi are at a significant advantage over students who cannot take the tests in these two languages. Given this scerio, the Supreme Court took an unexpected and significant stand on Monday when it ruled that students intending to appear for the NEET to be held on July 24 can write their papers in Assamese, Telugu, Gujarati, Marathi, Tamil, Urdu or Bengali. This takes care of one major hurdle of such qualifying examitions, mely, the ibility to cope with the qualifying examition because of the language proficiency required in English rather than one’s lack of knowledge in the content areas to be tested such as Biology. The latest directive of the Supreme Court partly ensures that a student who has been taught in an Assamese-medium school but knows his subject quite well need not be deprived of admission in a medical college just because his or her proficiency in English has come in the way. As it happens quite often, the Supreme Court has come to the aid of the people at a time when the mindlessness of bureaucrats who make the rules has come in the way of ensuring justice to all kinds of students. Now they can prepare better for the content area of a subject rather than the language that is used to talk about it.