Several political leaders, activists, students, parents, and other stakeholders have raised concerns over holding the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) in September amid the Covid-19 pandemic. While NEET is scheduled to take place on September 13, JEE (Mains) will be held from September 1 to September 6.
Here are the highlights to know about the NEET-JEE exams so far:
Exam dates extended twice due to Covid-19: Over 8.58 lakh and 15.97 lakh candidates have registered for JEE (Main) and NEET (UG) respectively this year. Generally, the JEE (Mains) exams for engineering aspirants are conducted in April while NEET is conducted for medical aspirants in May. These exams were postponed twice in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic and the nationwide lockdown imposed on March 25 to restrict the spread of the disease.
Number of centres increased: In order to ensure that social distancing is maintained, the National Testing Agency (NTA), which is responsible for conducting these exams, has increased the number of centres this year. 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.
Admit cards available online: While NTA has released admit cards for JEE (Mains), the apex examination body on Tuesday said it would soon release admit cards for NEET as well. Education minister Ramesh Pokhriyal ‘Nishank’ told a news channel in an interview that over 80% students had already downloaded the JEE (Mains) admit cards till Tuesday.
Social distancing in exam halls: As per the standard operating protocols developed by NTA, a reduced number of candidates will be seated in exam rooms to maintain social distancing. In case of NEET (UG), the number of candidates per room has been reduced from the earlier 24 to 12. While students have been asked to use gloves and masks at all times, centres will be equipped with extra supplies in case students or staff need it at the centre.
Precautionary measures: There will be hand sanitiser will be present at entry and exit points. Students will disperse in a staggered manner to avoid overcrowding. There will be thermo-guns to check the temperature of all staff and candidates. If any examination functionary fails to meet the self-declaration criteria or thermal scanner check, they will be asked to leave the examination centre immediately. Isolation rooms will also be set up for students with a body temperature of over 99.4° Fahrenheit. NTA has said that “no one will be denied permission to appear for the examination, if he/ she violates the Covid-19 directives/advisories of Government (Central/State) applicable on the day of exam and instructions mentioned in the Admit Card.”
Students cite problems: Apart from the Covid-19 threat, several stakeholders have pointed out that students from flood-hit states such as Bihar, Gujarat, and Assam or the rain-hit districts of Kerala or those from areas such as Jammu and Kashmir facing Internet connectivity issues will have to struggle more to appear for the entrance exams. Activists have also pointed out that students travelling to different centres and returning home to multigenerational families may further spread the disease in the country.
Several districts in lockdown: Of the 734 districts in the country, lockdown orders related to Covid-19 of varying degrees are in place in 345 districts across the country. Students from these areas are likely to face problems while commuting to the exam centre with a reduced number of operational public transport facilities.
Political leaders against it: Leaders from various political parties, such as the Congress, Aam Aadmi Party, Trinamool Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal among others, have expressed reservations about conducting exams amid a pandemic and 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 are also slated to hold a virtual meeting with chief ministers of non-BJP states on Wednesday.
Students’ protests: Students’ organisations, such as AISA, SFI, NSUI among others, have been holding consistent social media campaigns to demand the cancellation or postponement of the exams. 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 protest against the issue. Other exams scheduled to be held in September include Delhi University Entrance Test, Common Law Admissions Test, IP university entrance exams, and UGC-NET exams.
Loss of an academic year is a concern: Academicians said a further delay in 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 at the very least. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court too said that “life must go on” and students “cannot waste a whole year”.