The recent NEET controversy has triggered an extremely important nation-wide discussion on syllabus differences between several Boards and the urgent need to uniform the syllabus of all different Boards of the nation. There are 27 different Boards in India today for higher secondary courses and each Board has a different syllabus, text book and exam system.
The subject of Education is in the Concurrent List and hence both the Union Government and State Government are stakeholders in framing various policies pertaining to Education sector. Due to the advent of Entrance Exams for professional courses made compulsory by a Supreme Court ruling of October 2004, various Common Entrance Tests (CETs) at State and National level started for all professional courses in India.
In the past 5 years however, there have been attempts made by the Union Government to replace multiple CETs for one professional course by a Single National Entrance Exam. The recent case of NEET for Medical courses offering MBBS & BDS is a striking example. Similar attempts have been made for Management and Law courses as well. This has brought forth the central issue of syllabus for the National Entrance exams vis-a-vis State Boards syllabus. The syllabus of the national entrance exam in various subjects does not match or conform to the syllabus covered in the text books of State Boards and hence causes inconvenience and disadvantage to several students who appear for the exam. Most National Entrance exams conform to NCERT core curriculum norms which is not strictly followed by all State Boards. Hence, the crisis.
In order to resolve this crisis once and for all, it is proposed that for scientific or technical subjects like Maths, Science, Geography, Computers, Accounting, Economics, Environmental studies etc., there must be one syllabus for all the Boards of the nation from Std.1 to 12 as and when these topics are taught. All the Boards must follow the same text book for that subject at that particular Std. For example, the Mathematics text book of Std.7 must be same for all the Boards of the nation. There is no regional pride (PRADESHIK ASMITA in Marathi) which must be attached to teaching of scientific or technical subjects. This proposal is in line with the principle of ONE NATION – ONE SYLLABUS – ONE TEXT BOOK which is adopted by several advanced nations like Finland, Sweden, Norway etc. and also proposed by several eminent educationists and HRD Ministers in the past decade.
However, for subjects which have a social, cultural or political influence like Languages, History, Civics etc., the syllabus and text books must be different for different Boards as they shall reflect the regional and cultural diversity of the nation. Regional pride and cultural sentiments has a definitive place here and must be respected and honored.
For Maharashtra State which is currently grappled with the crisis of syllabus mismatch in Physics, Chemistry & Biology with respect to NEET exam, the solution lies in adopting the “Goa Model” immediately. The Goa State Board for the past 10 years has adopted NCERT books which are published by Goa State Board under their name with official permission from NCERT. A royalty may be paid to NCERT for doing so. The Maharashtra Higher Secondary Board (HSC) must do the same immediately for all scientific and technical subjects. This will uniform the syllabus of Maharashtra State Board with CBSE and National level Entrance exams and prevent any similar crisis that may occur in future for students of our State. It will also enable students of Maharashtra State Board to compete on an even keel with students of any other Board in India and thus boost their prospects.
The NEET crisis exposed the mismatch of syllabus and has ushered in a welcome change long overdue in our nation of ONE NATION – ONE SYLLABUS – ONE TEXT BOOK. Hence, the NEET crisis may turn out to be a blessing in disguise !!!