Will the proposed national single entrance test prove beneficial to students?
The year 2013 will be marked as a significant one in the country’s higher education scenario with a landmark change kicking in — the national common entrance examination. Instead of multiple examinations for admissions to different colleges by way of each State conducting one for government seats, and in some States private associations conducting one for management seats, in addition to large private universities conducting their own entrance tests, the entire country will have a single exam.
The new system, aimed at streamlining the admission process to professional courses in the country, will begin with the medical stream. Amidst stiff opposition from various quarters, especially private institutions, to the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET), the process for the common test for postgraduate (PG) medical admissions has already begun.
The NEET-PG for admissions to PG medical seats will be conducted over 10 days between November 23 and December 6 at 47 test centres across 33 cities. This will be seen as a precursor to the undergraduate (UG) NEET which is scheduled to debut next year following a Supreme Court directive.
However, as expected out of any new model, the NEET-PG is already faced with a volley of complaints. First, the overwhelming number of registrations rattled the testing service provider, Prometric. As many as 38,000 registrations were recorded on the first day for the new qualifying-cum-entrance examination conducted by the National Board of Examination). The overwhelming response prompted Prometric to release additional seats in all locations on the first day of registration.
Another glaring loophole popped up right on the first day. The common exam, expected to reduce inconvenience for students who had to travel from one city to another to write multiple exams, had not eliminated the problem. Due to the large number of registrations, entries for exam centres were filled up soon after the registration window opened.
For example, a PG medical seat aspirant in Bangalore complained of all exam centres in the city being full on Day-1 itself. He got allotted a centre in distant New Delhi. “I have to spend Rs. 10,000 on the flight ticket now,” he rued. Similar cases were reported from across the country.
To add to the confusion, candidates are allowed to register only once and there will be no option to change the test location, date or time after they have completed their online registration process. Candidates have time till November 12 to complete their registration.
Observers are watching carefully how the NEET-PG pans out as it will be a small sample of how the NEET-UG will be conducted next year. The latter is expected to be a bigger challenge due to the huge number of undergraduate applicants. Moreover, States like Karnataka have made certain requests to the Council of Boards of School Education in India (COBSE), New Delhi, among which are adhering to the difficulty level in portions followed for the Karnataka Common Entrance Test (K-CET) and making the exam bilingual (in English and Kannada to cater to the rural students as well).
Engineering to wait?
Meanwhile, the common exam for engineering courses — the Indian Science Engineering Eligibility Test (ISEET) — may have to wait. Karnataka, for one, has decided to stick to K-CET till 2015 for engineering admissions.