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Pandemic VS Academic Year: What should the priority be?

The health of students or a loss of year: The dilemma for NTA


This year has left a devastating impact on the academic calendar of students. Many board examinations were affected, results of all the board results were delayed. Further to that, all competitive examinations were delayed – in turn affecting the admissions to undergraduate courses. Though schools are operating online, fresh admissions to engineering, medical, and other undergraduate courses rely on board and competitive examinations.

After much back and forth, on August 21, it was announced by the National Testing Agency (NTA) that they will conduct the National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET) 2020 and Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) 2020 as per schedule in September. JEE Mains is scheduled to be held between 1 and 6 September and NEET UG will be conducted on 13 September.

Students have been actively protesting against the commencement of NEET and JEE exams on various social media platforms and are asking to postpone exams till the coronavirus pandemic slow down.

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What are NEET and JEE exams? 

NEET and JEE are two country-level examinations that are responsible for the admissions to the IITs, AIIMS, NITs and other medical colleges.  These exams are usually conducted in April or May which helps the admissions process begin and complete by the end of July. The classes then start by August 1.

Read more: 6 countries who claim to have recovered from the Coronavirus

When will NTA declare NEET and JEE (Main) results?

The NTA or National Testing Agency normally takes 7 days to declare JEE (Main) results and 30 days for NEET. However, looking at the pandemic-induced disruption, the Agency will announce JEE (Mains) results in 5 days, around September 11, and NEET results in 20 days, most probably in the first week of October.

For JEE Advanced, the IITs will try to declare the results on the 8 days from the exam. JEE advanced exams are scheduled on October 27, so the results will be out by September 5. Counselling for the IITs and NITs for students would begin by October 7 (best circumstances) and last for a month.

Impact of further delay in conducting JEE Mains and NEET examination

With the present NEET and JEE Mains examination scheduled in September, it is expected that the admission process may be completed by November, and the new academic session might begin by the end of November or early December. Due to the protest if the government decides to further delay the examination it would virtually erase a semester.

The situation for NEET exams are more complex as it is the only entrance examination for dental and medical college admissions. Counselling is divided between states and the centre; thus, the process is longer. Counselling first begins for central and all India quota seats , and then for the state quota seats. The entrance examination is scheduled on September 13,which means even though the results are declared by September 30, the whole October month will pass in counselling. This will push back the session to mid-November (best case scenario).

Undergraduate courses including the medical colleges, NITs are divided into semesters. The first semester usually starts in August and ends in December and the examinations are scheduled in late December. Another delay, won’t only eat up the first semester but also take some months of the second semester.

We reached out to some of the aspiring students to know what they think about the exam. Rajnish Kumar, a JEE aspirant said, “I live just 20 kilometres away from my examination centre in Patna. I have no problem appearing for the exam. My father will drop me at the centre and I will follow all the measures like social distancing, face masks and sanitizing hands regularly to keep myself safe. There is no certainty about when this COVID-19 will go so, we can’t wait for more. The exam has already been delayed by 4 to 5 months. I cannot afford to lose more time”.

Another Student Muskan, a NEET aspirant based in Lucknow said “Even though my exam centre is near, it’s too risky for me to appear in the exam. I can ask my mother to come along but where will she stay for the time I will be writing in the exam centre. COVID-19 is a deadly disease and I simply can’t risk my and my parents’ health just for one year of my life. Even though there is a 1 per cent chance of getting the infection for my parents, I will avoid going for the examination. I can buy this one year of lost time later but what if something happens to me or my parents.” Later, she asked the Education Ministry to postpone the exam until the situation of COVID-19 deteriorates.

Alternatives?

While the security of students, parents and officials involved in conducting examinations are important, it is also important that students don’t lose a lot of time due to pandemic. There is no certainty about the virus that by what time it will be gone. So, the exams cannot be postponed indefinitely. One solution could be online examinations, but for that, we are almost too late. Still, a split model of offline and online exams or shorter duration exams can be considered.

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