A major change in the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) announced one month ago has been rolled back by the HRD Ministry. According to a report by the Indian Express, the NEET exam will now be conducted in pen-and-paper mode as opposed to the online mode, which was decided earlier. This new decision from the HRD Ministry was motivated by concerns that an online test would put students from rural and economically poor families at disadvantage.

The registration process for next year’s NEET exam, NEET 2019, will begin from November 1st, 2018 and the exam will be held on May 5th, 2019. However, this decision does not affect the Joint Entrance Exam (JEE), which will be held twice a year. The newly formed National Testing Agency (NTA) will conduct national-level entrance examinations — NET, NEET, JEE (Mains) — which were previously organised by the CBSE.

It turns out that it was in fact the Health Ministry that had raised concerns over the HRD Ministry’s decision regarding holding the NEET exam twice a year. As per reports, the Health Ministry sent a letter within three days of the decision stating that the public announcement on the NEET was made “without formal consultation” with them.

In its letter, the Health Ministry sighted eight problems that would accrue owing to the HRD Ministry’s announcement. Apart from concerns that a test in online mode would put poor and rural students at a disadvantage, the Health Ministry had a problem with the examination calendar announced for the NEET, the report adds.