The Many Faces Behind the NEET Protests: A Deep Dive into India’s Medical Education Controversy


The National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) has been a focal point of controversy and protest in India since its inception. While intended to standardize medical education admissions across the country, NEET has sparked widespread unrest and resistance from various segments of society. This article explores the diverse faces behind the NEET protests, examining the motivations, challenges, and perspectives of the students, parents, educators, and policymakers involved.

The Genesis of NEET

NEET was introduced by the Medical Council of India (MCI) and later upheld by the Supreme Court as a single entrance examination for admission to undergraduate (MBBS) and postgraduate (MD/MS) medical courses in India. The primary goals of NEET were to eliminate disparities in the admission process, curb corruption, and ensure merit-based entry into medical colleges. However, despite these noble intentions, the implementation of NEET has been fraught with issues, leading to widespread protests.

The Students: Aspirations and Anxieties

For many students, the dream of becoming a doctor represents a path to prestige, financial stability, and the opportunity to serve society. However, the advent of NEET has added layers of anxiety and uncertainty to this pursuit:

  1. Pressure and Stress: The intense competition and high stakes associated with NEET have led to significant mental health issues among students. The pressure to perform well in a single examination that determines their future can be overwhelming.
  2. Inequality and Accessibility: Students from rural and economically disadvantaged backgrounds often lack access to quality coaching and resources necessary to prepare for NEET. The urban-rural divide in educational facilities exacerbates the inequalities, making it harder for these students to compete on an equal footing.
  3. Language Barriers: NEET is primarily conducted in English and Hindi, which puts students from non-Hindi speaking regions and those who have studied in vernacular languages at a disadvantage. This linguistic bias adds another layer of difficulty for many aspirants.

The Parents: Hopes and Despair

Parents, who invest heavily in their children’s education, both financially and emotionally, are critical stakeholders in the NEET protests:

  1. Financial Burden: The cost of coaching classes, study materials, and examination fees imposes a heavy financial burden on families, particularly those from lower-income groups. Many parents deplete their savings or take loans to support their children’s preparation for NEET.
  2. Emotional Toll: The stress and anxiety experienced by students often extend to their families. Parents, who share their children’s aspirations, also bear the emotional toll of the preparation process and the uncertainties of the results.
  3. Perceived Injustice: Parents of students who fail to secure admission despite high scores often feel that the system is unjust. The perception that NEET favors certain groups or regions over others fuels discontent and frustration.

The Educators: Systemic Challenges and Critiques

Educators and academic institutions have raised significant concerns about the NEET system and its impact on the quality and accessibility of medical education:

  1. Curriculum Discrepancies: State boards and the central board (CBSE) have different curricula, leading to discrepancies in the preparedness of students. NEET, based on the CBSE syllabus, disadvantages students from state boards who have to bridge the curriculum gap.
  2. Quality of Education: Critics argue that the focus on NEET preparation undermines holistic education. The emphasis on rote learning and coaching centers detracts from a broader educational experience that fosters critical thinking and practical skills.
  3. Institutional Autonomy: NEET has been seen as an encroachment on the autonomy of states and private institutions to conduct their own entrance exams. This centralization of admissions has led to friction between state governments and the central government.

The Policymakers: Intentions and Implications

Policymakers who advocate for NEET emphasize its potential to streamline medical admissions and enhance transparency. However, they also face significant challenges in addressing the concerns raised by various stakeholders:

  1. Meritocracy vs. Inclusivity: Balancing the principles of meritocracy with the need for inclusivity is a persistent challenge. Ensuring that NEET remains a fair test of merit while accommodating the diverse educational backgrounds of students is crucial.
  2. Addressing Disparities: Policymakers must address the systemic disparities that hinder equal access to NEET preparation. This includes improving educational infrastructure in rural areas, offering financial support for economically disadvantaged students, and providing resources in multiple languages.
  3. Policy Reforms: Continuous evaluation and reform of the NEET framework are necessary to adapt to changing educational needs and societal expectations. Engaging with all stakeholders, including students, parents, educators, and state governments, is essential for creating a more equitable system.

The Broader Impact: Social and Economic Dimensions

The NEET protests have broader social and economic implications for India:

  1. Social Mobility: Access to medical education is a crucial driver of social mobility. Ensuring that NEET does not become a barrier to entry for deserving students from marginalized communities is vital for social equity.
  2. Healthcare Workforce: The quality and distribution of the healthcare workforce are directly influenced by the medical education system. A fair and efficient admission process ensures a steady supply of competent doctors to serve diverse regions and populations.
  3. Public Perception: The ongoing protests and controversies surrounding NEET impact public perception of the education system and government policies. Building trust and confidence in the system is essential for social cohesion and progress.


Disclaimer: The thoughts and opinions stated in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or positions of any entities represented and we recommend referring to more recent and reliable sources for up-to-date information.