SC judgement on NEET is welcome
The latest Supreme Court judgement on the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) is most welcome. It is good that private medical colleges and their associates will no longer be allowed to hold separate admission tests for these courses.
Some of these institutes are often accused of being money making organisations that offer poor quality education. But it remains unclear as to how a common entrance test for medical and dental education will solve the problem of shortage of quality medical professionals. The apex court judgement does not quite link it with the unresolved issue of ensuring a uniform educational curriculum, syllabus, and right to quality education at the school level.
It is not that the Supreme Court is unconcerned about the discriminatory, and often weak, school level education system in India. In fact, another apex court judgement in August 2011, considered this vital issue in little detail before concluding that a uniform and quality school education is a must for all children. It also held political interference responsible for the unequal and often dismal state of school education in India. Unfortunately, the important judgement and observation have changed little in the general standard of school education.
Unrestricted and, often bogus, private college and university education, which had lately attracted criticism from the Reserve Bank Governor Raghuram Rajan, have added a new dimension to the country’s unhealthy progress.
What the apex court said in 2011 and how it was ignored by political authorities at the centre and states over the last five years, must be noted. “The State government should have acted bearing in mind that “destiny of a nation rests with its youth,” the court said. “The personality of a child is developed at the time of basic education during formative years of life. Their career should not be left in conditions with uncertainty to such a great extent.
The younger generation has to compete in global market.” The judges went on to state: “Uniform education system would achieve the code of common culture, removal of disparity, depletion of discriminatory values in human relations. It would enhance the virtues and improve the quality of human life, elevate the thoughts which advance our constitutional philosophy of equal society. In future, it may prove to be a basic preparation for uniform civil code as it may help in diminishing opportunities in those who foment fanatic and fissiparous tendencies.”
But, where is the uniform basic education system and civil code in India? “The government has to rise above the nexus of vested interests and nepotism and eschew window-dressing,” wrote Justice Chauhan. “The principles of governance have to be tested on the touchstone of justice, equity, fair play and if a decision is not based on justice, equity, and fair play and has taken into consideration other matters, though on the face of it, the decision may look legitimate but as a matter of fact, the reasons are not based on values but to achieve popular accolade, that decision cannot be allowed.”
Unless it was found that an act done by the authority earlier in existence was either contrary to statutory provisions, unreasonable or against the public interest, the State should not change its stand merely because the other political party had come to power, the bench noted. “Political agenda of an individual or a political party should not be subversive of the rule of law,” it said.
Pointing out that the uniform system of school education law had already been upheld by the Supreme Court, the Bench said: “Bringing [in] legislation in order to nullify a judgment of a competent court would amount to trenching upon the judicial power and no legislation is permissible which is meant to set aside the result of the mandamus issued by a court even though the amending statute may not mention such an objection. The rights embodied in a judgment cannot be taken away by the legislature indirectly.
“If 1.20-crore students are now to revert to the multiple syllabi with the syllabus and textbooks applicable prior to 2010 after the academic term of 2011-12 has begun, they would be utterly confused and would be put to enormous stress. Students cannot be put to so much strain and stress unnecessarily. The entire exercise by the government is, therefore, arbitrary, discriminatory and oppressive to students, teachers and parents.”
Expressing its anguish, the court then said: “The State government should have acted bearing in mind that destiny of a nation rests with its youth. The personality of a child is developed at the time of basic education during formative years of life. Their career should not be left in dolorific conditions with uncertainty.” Unfortunately, nothing much has changed.
Education is under the joint list of the Constitution. States follow their own laws and practices, generally choose their own medium of instruction and hold their own board-level secondary school leaving examinations. The ICSE, ISC, CBSE and various state board level secondary and higher secondary examinations follow their own independent systems.
But where do NEET-style uniform national post-school level admission tests fit in under such diversified school level education system following independent standards? Why is it important that NEET is conducted only in English and Hindi? What happens to those who followed Tamil, Telugu, Kannada, Malayalam, Oriya, Marathi, Bengali, Gujarati, Assamese, Urdu, etc, as the principal medium of instruction in schools? The Constitution recognises these state languages. How can any post-school national level entrance test ignore them?
Why include only Hindi if other regional languages are untouchable? If the medium of instruction for high-level technical education such as medical, dental, engineering, information technology, cost and financial accountancy, management, aeronautics, marine education, etc. is generally conducted in English, why should the entrance test to these disciplines be carried out only in one Indian language, Hindi, which is not considered the first language in many Indian states? Unless these fundamental issues are addressed politically, tests like NEET will only promote a vested interest group in post-school speciality education.
(The views expressed
are strictly personal.)