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Hiccups in NEET

Hiccups in NEET

In a significant decision that can affect the admission of students to medical colleges across the country, the Madurai Bench of the Madras High Court has stayed the counselling for admission to undergraduate medical courses under the all-India and Tamil Nadu quota seats. The Madras HC has asked the CBSE to grant 196 grace marks for the 49 incorrectly translated questions in the Tamil version of the entrance exam. The court has also directed the examination board to publish a revised ranking list in two weeks. Hearing a PIL filed by CPI(M) MP TK Rangarajan, the division bench comprising Justices CT Selvam and AM Basheer Ahamed stayed all the current proceedings of the admission process. "The list of qualified candidates shall be kept in abeyance as would the counselling sessions," it said. The HC order has come only days ahead of the result of the second round of seat allotment for the all-India quota for the admission to the MBBS and BDS courses, which is to be declared on July 12. In Tamil Nadu, the first phase of counselling is underway for the management quota seats till July 18. "All students who had taken NEET in Tamil will now get an additional 196 marks out of 720, whether they had attempted these wrong questions or not. We found both the questions as well as their answers wrong. For example, the word Cheetah was given but the Tamil spelling was 'Seetha'," said Shaji Chellam, counsel for the petitioner. In Tamil Nadu, 45,336 students (39.6 per cent) qualified out of the 1.14 lakh students who had appeared for the NEET this year. Of all the students, there were 24,000 students who had written the examination papers in their chosen Tamil medium. The NEET cut-off this year was 119 for students from the general category and 96 for SC, ST and OBC students. With the 196 grace marks added, many Tamil medium students may become eligible for government institutes. All students who got more than minus 77 marks in the general category and more than minus 100 marks in the reserved categories, will clear the cut-off. Under the state quota, Tamil Nadu has 3,328 medical seats in government and private medical colleges. Besides, there are 516 seats for students under the management quota. In the first round of counselling, which is underway, over 2,447 students have already been admitted to 22 government medical colleges.

The Madras High Court's ruling asking the CBSE to give grace marks of 196 to all students who wrote the entrance examination paper in Tamil for the wrong translation of the questions, is likely to open the pandora's box for all other all-India level examinations conducted in regional languages. For a long time, English has been the medium of education for all technical disciplines like medicine, engineering and management. And, the exams for these disciplines were also conducted in the same language. This places the students appearing in regional language categories at a disadvantage while students with English-medium education have enjoyed an unfair advantage. In order to set things right and give a level playing field to all students from regional language categories too, the government had asked the examination boards to conduct the examinations in regional languages as well, apart from in English. Since technical education involves subject specific jargons, the translation is difficult. Also, the availability of books and their quality remain low for technical subjects. That 49 questions were wrongly translated in the NEET question papers points to not only the difficulty in translation but also the lack of translation experts that the examination boards have at their disposal. The eighth schedule of the Indian Constitution lists 22 regional languages as official languages. The difficulty in translation of the question papers, as demonstrated by the NEET examination, only points to the difficulty in adopting regional languages as the medium of education, especially for technical education. The Madras High Court decision, which has reprimanded the examination board, CBSE, for its failure to provide an error-free question paper in Tamil, is surely going to make students of other regional languages demand similar grace marks for every question that is incorrect in its translation. The state of technical education in the country is already lopsided with some institutions competing with the best in the world while others standing at the bottom of the listing. In most reputed institutions, English is the medium of education whereas the lowly-ranked government institutions are trying to adopt regional languages as the medium of education. But the experiment of promoting regional languages, especially in technical education, is not encouraging. The latest ruling of the Madras High Court is a reminder of this grim reality.

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