Scrapping NEET-UG upper age limit to fulfil aspirations of wide cross section

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The move by the National Medical Commission (NMC) to eliminate the upper age limit for the NEET UG entrance exam, has come as a relief to candidates above 25 years of age. Earlier, the upper age cap was 25 years for the unreserved category candidates and 30 years for the reserved candidates. “There should not be any age barrier to education, and since students had already gone to Court and relief was granted, the official announcement on the removal of the upper age limit, will benefit students in the 25-35 age group who are keen to get back into the system.

That apart, students pursuing Homeopathy/Allopathy and women who were earlier burdened with family responsibilities, can now fulfil their MBBS aspirations. For candidates above 40 years of age, the NEET UG exam often helps serve their academic interests. Due to the relief provided by the Supreme Court in the last three years, aspirants who are 60 plus (though their numbers are miniscule) have also attempted the exam and some have even qualified it. Age bar does not exist in other countries, so it makes sense to remove the barrier,” says a senior official from the health ministry on condition of anonymity.

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The medical profession, he adds, involves a continuous education process with newer diseases and medicines emerging every year. “Hence, there should not be any artificial barriers like age to create roadblocks for the candidates. Earlier to 2017, there was no upper age limit, but with the Medical Council of India (MCI) coming in, the board of governors that keeps changing, suggested that age cap be introduced as it was felt that coaching teachers (in the 40-45 age group) were taking the exam to get a feel of the question bank. But the transparency of the current question banks with fairly frequent updations, will render such efforts redundant. Candidates will have to apply themselves to answer the deductive type of questions for which rote memorisation will not be effective,” he adds.
The official also points to the fact that those attempting the exam multiple times may not be necessarily better prepared than those who attempt the exam once or twice – in fact, the latter group seems to be among the better performers. With age bar removed, the number of aspirants may increase, but the competition and performance will remain the same, the official says.

“Every year 15 lakh aspirants appear for the NEET-UG for the 1,18,316 seats in India (as in 2020). When more people appear in nationwide single competitive exam, the ones who prepared well for the competitive exams will be able to score better ranks and opt for the college of their choice. With no restrictions on upper age limit and number of attempts, it will help the ones who could not give it their best shot another opportunity to do so, along with those who were unable to take the exam due to economic and family pressures,” says Dr Somashekhar SP, chairman & HOD Surgical Oncology-MHEPL, Manipal, citing the classic example of a 64-year-old retired bank manager, medical aspirant who got into a medical college in Orissa. “He was unsuccessful in the 1970s to get into the medical branch, and not willing to lose a year, joined BSc with Physics Honours. Yet a strong desire, motivation of his family members and in the memory of his late daughter, he could fulfil his dream of trying to make a difference in the society,” Dr Somashekhar adds.

The NMC’s decision, he says, will not only encourage interested aspirants to appear for NEET but also help in increasing the doctor, patient ratio (the ideal being 1000:1 as per WHO norms), more so, in the small towns.

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