Students appearing for the JEE/NEET 2020 examinations in September 2020 largely want the examination to be postponed citing COVID-19 fears and issues of transportations during lockdown and flooding in several parts of India.
Academicians, on the other end of the spectrum, favour exams being held as usual.
On August 27, India recorded an all-time high in daily COVID-19 cases at 77,266, taking the positive tally to 3.38 million. The total deaths stand at 61,529.
JEE Main 2020 is scheduled from September 1-6 and it is the entrance test for admission into engineering institutes. NEET (UG) 2020 is scheduled for September 13 and it is the entrance exam for undergraduate medical colleges.
Even as the number of COVID-19 cases increase, professors across medical and engineering institutes are of the view that the exams can’t be keep postponing and holding them in September is in the best interest of students.
“We understand that students are concerned, but the government and the National Testing Agency (NTA) have clarified umpteen number of times that safety will be the top priority.
“How does a student benefit, tell me? Say NEET 2020 is postponed to October or November and virus cases explode. Are students fine with skipping this academic year?” said the deputy dean of a medical college in Navi Mumbai.
In 2020, 858,000 candidates registered for JEE Main and 1.59 million for NEET (UG). Among them, 741,000 candidates have downloaded the JEE admit cards. As for NEET, 684,000 candidates have downloaded admit cards.
If the exams are postponed, the duration of the four-year engineering course and 5.5- year MBBS course will either be extended or students will be told to complete a few portions at home, followed by assessments.
Academicians write to the PM
On August 27, over 150 academicians from various universities in India and abroad wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi insisting that both exams should be held as per schedule in September 2020.
The letter said that further delay will mean compromising the future of students.
Also Read: Here's why students want JEE/NEET to be postponed
The signatories included academicians from the BHU, Indian Institute of Technology (IIT), Delhi, Jawaharlal Nehru University and Lucknow University, among others. The names of foreign university academicians like those from Ben Gurion University, Israel, University of California and University of London were also in this letter.
One of the Indian signatories told Moneycontrol that students are misguided when they say IITs have conducted internal exams online.
“There is a difference between entrance exams and internal exams. What will be the credibility of holding engineering entrance tests online where students can easily cheat, sitting at home?” he added.
‘It is students who will suffer, not us’
Academicians are also of the view that constant postponement of exams will only lead to students suffering. Further, they say that many students themselves want the confusion to end and appear for exams.
Ajit K Chaturvedi, Director, IIT Roorkee, said that the pandemic has already disrupted the academic plans of many students and institutions and “we don’t see the pandemic going away anytime soon”.
“We should not let this be a zero academic year as it might have consequences on the bright future of several students. Students and parents need to have faith in the system. The decision to hold these exams has been taken after considering every aspect of the current situation,” he added.
Also Read: NTA says odd-even seating will be followed in JEE/NEET
The head of instrumentation department at a Mumbai-based engineering college told Moneycontrol that postponing exams will also mean that students will miss out on career opportunities abroad.
“A student of the same age in the US will complete his/her course in four years while Indian students would face a delay and an extension in the course duration if exams are postponed again. Isn’t the Indian student losing out,” he asked.
Alternative mechanisms may increase drop-outs
Professors also say that selecting students through open-book examinations or based on their performance in the Class XII board examinations is not feasible.
The dean of a government medical college in Chennai said that the NEET 2020 tests exactly the students’ aptitude levels for the medical profession.
“Students are being irrational when they say let us give exams from home. How do we filter quality then? Any and every student will then qualify and soon drop out when they realise the rigour of the course,” he added.
Estimates by medical colleges show that close to 5 percent students drop out of MBBS and dental courses, for which NEET 2020 is the eligibility exam. The fear among medical institutes is that allowing students to join these courses without proper tests will only increase dropouts and dilute the quality of students.
In engineering courses, the dropout rate stands at 4-5 percent every year. Engineering colleges are of the view that considering how tough the course curriculum is for the four-year programmes, it is essential that only serious candidates apply.
“Those demanding the postponement of the JEE Main exams are definitely among the non-serious candidates. These candidates seem to be ill-prepared, and, hence, want postponement,” said the head of the computer science department at a Tier-II engineering college.
Though JEE Main 2020 examination is largely a computer-based test, drawing abilities are also evaluated (for courses like instrumentation and architecture).
“How does one give drawing tests from home? Isn’t there a higher possibility of illegal methods being used if students are allowed to scan and send papers from home?” said an IIT professor.
This professor also added that students who call for JEE Main to be postponed must understand that the results of this test will be required for JEE Advanced, which is used for admission into IIT.
“If JEE Main 2020 is postponed, so will JEE Advanced 2020. We are already inching towards the end of 2020. IITs don’t mind and will make students catch up on the lost portion themselves. Will students be ready,” he asked.
Cabinet ministers from six states have filed a joint petition in the Supreme Court to postpone JEE 2020/NEET 2020. However, considering that the apex court has already dismissed pleas to defer JEE/NEET, it is unlikely that there would be any change.