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Sunday, April 11, 2021

The big JEE, NEET exam dilemma: Explained in 10 points

Perhaps the biggest controversy that we are witnessing at the national level is that centering this year’s National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) exams.

This is such an issue that right from international environmental activist Greta Thunberg to Delhi’s deputy chief minister Manish Sisodia and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee and several political leaders, activists, students, parents, and other stakeholders have spoken about. They raised concerns over holding the exams this month amid the pandemic. While NEET is scheduled to take place on September 13, JEE (Mains) will be held from September 1 to September 6. In this article, we shall discuss all the important aspects concerning this issue.

Here are the 10 most important aspects about the ongoing NEET and JEE exam controversy that you must know.

1. Change in exam schedule twice due to Covid-19

More than 8.58 lakh candidates are supposed to appear for the JEE (Main) exam while the total number of NEET candidates is 15.97 lakh. Generally, the JEE (Mains) exams which ususally engineering aspirants take are conducted in the month of April, while NEET is meant for medical aspirants and it is held in May. Both the exams were postponed twice because of the pandemic and the nationwide lockdown which began on March 25 to curb the spread of the disease.

2. Education ministry increased number of exam centres

Clearly, the education ministry has no mind to further delay the exams and they are doing all they can to conduct them. Maintaining social distancing is one of the prime concern for them and hence the National Testing Agency (NTA), which is responsible for conducting these exams, has increased the number of exam centres this year. According to a report, while the number of centres for JEE has been increased from 570 to 660, for NEET the number stands at 3,843, an increase from 2,546.

3. Admit cards have been released online

The NTA has released admit cards for the JEE (Mains) already. The apex exam body has said that it would soon make admit cards for the NEET exams available as well. Education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ reportedly said that over 80% students had already downloaded the JEE (Mains) admit cards till Tuesday.

4. Can social distancing in exam halls be possible?

The NTA has prescribed that the number of candidates seated in each exam rooms will be decreased in order to ensure social distancing. A report says that in case of NEET (UG), the number of candidates per room has been reduced from the earlier 24 to 12. As per the NTA guidelines, students have been asked to use gloves and masks at all times during the entire course of their exam, while the exam centres will be equipped with extra supplies of masks and there such items in case students or staff need it at the centres. With all arrangements in place, it seems the exams can take place but a section of students, political leaders and academicians have rejected the idea.

5. what all precautionary measures will be taken

The NTA has said that there will be hand sanitiser at entry and exit points of all exam centres. Students will enter and exit the exam centres in a staggered manner to avoid overcrowding. There will be thermo-guns to check the temperature of all staff and candidates. If any examination staff fails to meet the self-declaration criteria or thermal scanner check, they will be asked to leave the centre immediately.

Also, isolation rooms will also be arranged for students with a body temperature of over 99.4°F. The apex exam conductor has said that no candidate will be denied permission to appear for the exams and proper measures will be taken so that noone violates the directives set by the Centre or states for the day of exams.

6. What students are saying about all these?

Besides the pandemic threat, several stakeholders state that students from flood-hit states such as Bihar, Gujarat and Assam or the rain-hit districts of Kerala or those from Jammu and Kashmir facing Internet availability issues will have to struggle to sit for the exams. Activists have also said that students travelling to different centres and returning home to families may further spread the virus in the country.

7. What about districts under lockdown?

Of the total 734 districts in the country, lockdown orders are still in place in 345 districts. Though its degree can be more or less according to the Covid-19 scenario of that particular district. So therefore, students from these areas are likely to face problems while commuting to the exam centre with less number of operational public transport facilities.

8. What are political leaders saying about it?

Leaders from various political parties, especially the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Trinamool and Rashtriya Janata Dal among others, have expressed deep reservations about conducting the exams amid the Covid-19 pandemic. These parties have urged the Centre to come up with an alternative solution for admission to medical and engineering courses. Congress interim president Sonia Gandhi and Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee also held a virtual meeting with the chief ministers of non-BJP states on Wednesday on this issue. In fact, the development was strong that it is assumed that the Congress and the TMC can form an alliance once again to counter the BJP at the Centre.

9. Widepsread students’ protests

Students’ organisations, such as AISA, SFI, NSUI among others, have been holding multiple campaigns and protests to demand the cancellation or postponement of the exams this year. Twitter hashtags such as #ProtestAgainstExamsinCovid garnered over three million tweets on a single day. The student community has also been holding relay hunger strikes to stage their agitation. However, there are several other exams scheduled to be held in September. They include Delhi University Entrance Test, Common Law Admissions Test, IP university entrance exams, and UGC-NET exams. The future of these exams are uncertain too. According to a report, Rajasthan education minister and State Congress Chief Govind Singh Dotasra, who declared that the state will hold protest on Friday against the Centre’s decision of going ahead with holding the exams.

10. Loss of academic year a concern for many candidates

The present situation about these two exams is in a complete mess now. With the ministry going forward to hold the exams but a huge section of candidates opposing it, it is still not sure which will ultimately happen. A group of academicians have already said a further delay in the examinations can disrupt the academic calendar and put the future of students in jeopardy. They also emphasised that conducting the exams in September would allow institutes to start online classes. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court too said that “life must go on” and students “cannot waste a whole year”. “We find that there is absolutely no justification in the prayer made for postponement of the examination in question relating to NEET as well as JEE-Mains,” the Supreme Court had said.

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