Court gives breather on tests but lays down strict code of safeguards for students and exam venues
It is official. The Joint Entrance Examination (JEE) and the National Entrance Eligibility Test (NEET) exams will be held on schedule in September. This finality came after the Supreme Court dismissed a petition by 11 students from 11 States to postpone them on the plea that they could pose a health risk in the middle of a pandemic. A Bench, headed by Justice Arun Mishra, said that students’ careers could not be jeopardised on mere threat perception and that life should go on. In the same breath, it advised the National Testing Agency (NTA) to “move ahead with all safeguards.” It further argued that “COVID may continue for a year more. Are you going to wait another year? Do you know what is the loss to the country and peril to the students?” Though it is a good thing that the wheel of life is moving ahead, there are tough challenges. Most of the parents are facing financial distress in a sinking economy and would find bearing the costs of transportation, accommodation and the medical treatment of their wards appearing for the exam a burden. Besides, what about the plight of lakhs of students belonging to the flood-affected States of Bihar, Assam and the North-east who would find it impossible to appear for the tests? Until now, the NTA had given the opportunity to all students to change their exam centres or cities to the ones most convenient to them in view of the COVID situation. But given the scale of the outbreak, shouldn’t the NTA take a page out of the UP Government’s book — which recently successfully conducted JEE tests for B.Ed in the State — and ensure that there is an examination centre in every district of the country? This is so that the students, particularly women and divyangs, don’t have to travel too far from home, thus reducing their travel time, the danger of exposure to the virus and the burden of accommodation on their families.
However, despite these misgivings, one cannot ignore the fact that the JEE NEET exams are important and postponing them further would have compounded the stress levels of students, who have been preparing for them since Class X. Not holding the exams would have meant the loss of an academic year. Under the University Grants Commission’s (UGC) revised guidelines, it’s mandatory for all universities to complete the final year examinations by the end of September 2020. Now that this matter has been set to rest by the apex court, the focus should shift to preparations of a safety net by everyone involved.
Wednesday, 19 August 2020 | Pioneer
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