By Rajan Narayan

THE education minister Dharmendra Pradhan has ordered the scrapping of grace marks to 1563 NEET aspirants. The NEET aspirants who were given grace marks included five toppers who got 720 out of 720 in the exams. It has been revealed that as many as 44 out of 67 toppers benefited from compensatory marks to a physics question where the old and the new NCERT text books offered different answers on the nature of the atom. The students whose grace marks have been given the choice of answering a new test on June 23. The SC might decide on extending the text to all 24 lakh students who answered the exam. The chairman of the national testing authority may be sacked.
The SC may however order Supreme Court has observed that the ‘Sanctity’ of NEET has been affected by the marks scam. The SC has demanded answers for the grace marks given to students. Over 24 lakh students appeared for the NEET exam held on May 5 at 4750 centres across 571 seats. The allegation of a paper leak came from Patna by a gang involving paper solvers. It was alleged that several students were given the question and answer for Rs30-Rs50 lakh before the exam. Questions have also been raised over the perfect score of 720 out of 720. The National Testing Authority has been claiming that grace marks were given for loss of exam time.
The NEET test for medical admissions consists of a booklet containing 75 multiple-choice questions in physics, biology and chemistry. Students were given three hours to answer the questions in all three subjects. The 100% results are not possible as there are negative markings also. Students get four marks for every question they answer correctly but two marks are deducted for wrong answers. Several students have approached the SC to set aside the results and conduct a fresh exam. The National Testing Authority agency however claims that there was no leakage of papers and the grace marks were given in accordance with the rules. the petitioners insisted that the grant of grace marks was arbitrary and that the high marks of 1718 and 1719 out of 1720 were statistically impossible. Questions have also been raised about how 67 students from the Patna centre got 720 out of 720.
The practice of giving grace marks has now contaminated even the prestigious National Entrance Eligibility Test (NEET) exam for admission to medical colleges. Giving grace marks of the lowest level of the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) to allow a student on the margin to pass the exam is perhaps forgivable. But to give grace marks to permit some students to become toppers is disgraceful.
The National Testing Authority has admitted giving grace marks to almost 1,600 of the 24 lakh who appeared for the NEET. Even more damagingly 50 of the so-called toppers who got an incredible 720 out of 720 were from one particular coaching class in Haryana. The 80-odd toppers did not get 100% marks because of their hard work or brilliance. They got 720 out of 720 marks due to the grace marks they have received. The National Testing Agency has admitted that there were some problems with the physics papers. Students of NEET are examined in physics, chemistry and biology besides English and general knowledge.
In the multiple choice question in physics apparently, some questions were carelessly included. To compensate students for the fault of the national testing authority it was decided to give grace marks to those who had attempted the faulty question in physics. Only 1,600 out of 24 lakh students attempted the questions. The students who did not attempt the faulty question did not get grace marks. The whole process of admission to medical colleges in 2024 stinks.

IN the first place, it is absurd that in any exam students should get 100% marks in an entrance exam or medical exam. This will affect the quality of doctors produced by the country in the future. As it is the quality of doctors is very badly affected as post-graduates in medicine where there is a large management quota. If you want admission to the cardiac department in a private medical college you will require to spend over a crore of rupees.
There is fierce competition to get admission to medical colleges. This is dramatized by the fact that 24 lakh appear for the medical entrance exam. The same test also applies to students who apply for admission to dental colleges and physiotherapy courses. It takes on an average of five years to get a basic degree in medicine, inclusive of a one-year bond period when graduates have to serve the government for one year. If a medical graduate wants to specialise in surgery or gynaecology, she/he must spend another two years. If the medical graduate wants to become a super specialist in neurosurgery cardiology or kidney transplant he has to spend another two years.
The return on investment particularly in the private sector is very high. A super specialist can earn between Rs10 crore to Rs50 crore yearly. The least that the government can do is to ensure that the process of admitting students to medical college is without any problems or mistakes. Surely it is not fair to the brightest and the best that students with grace marks should top the list of candidates.
Imagine the plight of the topper Tarun Kumar from Goa who reportedly got 99.89% in the NEET exam. Due to the grace marks and the liberal marking system even the Goa topper may not get admission to the Goa Medical College or any government medical colleges where the fees are much lower. There are problems with admission to medical colleges every year because the exams are conducted by a government agency.

THERE are no such problems with the joint entrance exam to the Indian Institute of Technology which was announced on Sunday, June 9. The top-ranking student Ved Lahoti got 355 out of 360 marks in the main IIT entrance exam. The highest among girl students Dwija Patel got 322 marks out of 360. Even in the case of Ved the all-India topper there was some controversy. The marking system in the IIT main exam was faulty. The topper challenged the wrong marking and manage to increase his score from 352 to 337.
Regrettably, the quality of the IIT brand has been devalued. Initially, there were only five IITs, namely the IIT Mumbai, Delhi, Madras, Kanpur and Kharagpur near Kolkata. There are 23 IITs now including one in Goa. The standards have diluted as there are not enough qualified teaching staff in the IITs. The IITs are finding it difficult to find teaching staff as their graduates are so much in demand in the private sector including in the United States. Sundar Pichai of Google is in IIT graduate from Kharagpur.
Interestingly, Saurabh Netravalkar who was responsible for the victory of the US over Pakistan in the World Cup cricket is an alumnus of the IIT Mumbai. The professional cricketer is the chief technology officer of the IT Company Oracle in the US. As a result of the mindless expansion of the IITs a large number of students who have passed out have not been able to get placement in the last two years.
I strongly believe that the reason why corruption has started in the selection of students for medical colleges and in perhaps IITs is because of the huge increase in the number of coaching classes. This is why every time the results of the NEET or IIT entrance exams are announced there are a dozen coaching classes issuing advertisements in the newspapers.

FOR instance, on the front page of the “Times of India,” the Narayan Educational Institution has claimed that The first three toppers are from their institute. The Chaitanya Techno School also has claimed that the topper is from their institute. They also claimed 30 of the 100 top ranks in the all-India category. The coaching classes charge huge fees for preparing students for competitive exams such as NEET and entrance to IIT and even management. The pressure is so instant that the number of students in Kota in Rajasthan commits suicide. Kota has become a factory for producing successful students in the entrance exam. We suspect that the coaching classes are involved in the scams associated with the entrance exam.
The practice of giving grace marks has inflated the pass percentage even at the SSC and the higher secondary level. Even a decade ago it was very difficult to get even 80-90% in SSC and HSSC exams. Now we have hundreds of students getting cent% marks in the SSC and HSSC. The HSSC board, the CBSE and all the other boards compete with each other to give grace marks to get a higher percentage of students to pass.
In the CBSE in Goa, 100% of the students pass the HSSC exam. The concept of merit has been destroyed with a huge amount of grace marks being given at every level of education. It is not a surprise that students who get 100% in SSC and HSSC due to grace marks do not even pass their medical and IIT entrance exams. It is suicidal to inflate the percentage of toppers and passes by giving grace marks. The glaring mistakes in setting papers are unforgivable. It is a vicious circle. The question papers are with mistakes. To compensate students grace marks are given which distort the list of the toppers. The national testing authority should conduct the NEET exam again to ensure that good students do not suffer.

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