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Further delay in JEE, NEET (UG) exam was not a viable option: Pokhriyal

Garima Singh New Delhi | Updated on September 01, 2020 Published on September 01, 2020

The National Testing Agency is conducting the examinations keeping in mind the health and safety of the students, says Education Minister

The Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) Mains — conducted by National Testing Agency (NTA) — starts from Tuesday and will continue till September 6. Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank, in an exclusive interaction with BusinessLine, said that not conducting or further delaying of JEE and National Eligibility cum Entrance Test (NEET)-UG wasn’t an option. Excerpts.

Why is the Centre conducting these exams even when there has been a surge in Covid-19 cases?

Though we are facing a pandemic situation, a further delay in conducting these competitive examinations would have led to a zero academic year, resulting in an enormous loss. Even China conducted its National College Entrance Examination, commonly known as Gaokao, overcoming Covid-19 fear.

NTA has been vigilant of the situation and the JEE exams have been already postponed from April 5-11 to July 18-23 and are now taking place between September 1-6. The NEET exam was rescheduled from May 3 to July 26 and will now be held on September 13, 2020.

Could the government not have come up with a way so that examinations were conducted without students having to worry about their health?

Covid-19 has thrown up an interesting challenge. This year, the JEE will be attempted by 8.58 lakh students and NEET by 15.97 lakh students over 660 centres for JEE and 3,842 centres for NEET. We have increased the test centres (earlier there were 570 and 2,456 centres respectively) keeping in mind the social distancing norms and safety of students.

Due to the sensitivity of the examinations and availability of time, it was difficult to arrange credible centres and computers. In the years to come, we will be able to enhance the digital infrastructure across the country and integrate technology more in education processes and outcomes.

Was the government also under pressure from coaching institutes who wanted NEET (UG), JEE (Mains) exams to be conducted?

The government is concerned about the academic interest of the students. Not conducting the examination would lead to untenable situations whose effects will be irreversible and harmful for the students.

Recently, the NTA came up with certain measures to ensure social distancing in examination centres. Do you think these measures will be sufficient?

The health and safety of the students are of prime importance. The NTA is ensuring that measures will be undertaken for the same. Thereby, each stakeholder who is involved in the administration of the exams — Chief Secretaries of all States/Administrators of all UTs, DGPs, Health Secretaries of the States/UTs, DMs/DCs of the exam cities/districts,, etcw — was taken on board before finalising the decision and the Standard Operating Procedure (SOPs)

Keeping the required precautions in mind, the NTA has defined an SOP based on recommendations of a high-level Committee of Medical Experts and considering various government directives and guidelines issued from time to time. Thermo gun temperature check, contactless document verification, admit card checking through bar code reader are a few practices/measures that have been added to SOP. Isolation rooms have been planned for Covid-19 suspects.

Detailed advisory for examination functionaries and candidates has been put on the NTA website for circulation among candidates and general public as well.

Besides students, several States were not in favour of conducting NEET (UG), JEE (Mains) exams. What are your views on it?

In the interests of the careers of students and aspirations of parents, and to honour the orders and observations of the Supreme Court. we should rise above political considerations.

Delaying the exams further was not a viable option as by then the next batch would be ready to sit for these competitive examinations. The NTA is conducting the examinations keeping in due consideration the required health and safety measures.

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Published on September 01, 2020
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