Amid a fierce debate over holding JEE Main and NEET entrance examinations amid COVID-19 pandemic, Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has said that a silent majority of students want the exams to be held in September. "Every day, I get innumerable mails from the silent majority. The parents are students say that they are under stress and preparing for exams for the last two to three years and that they don't want a zero academic year. They have been seriously preparing for the exams since Janury and the past two years. My request to all parents and students is to have faith in us about the safety of the examination centres," the minister told HT.
On being asked if the exams can be moved ahead by another 30 to 60 days, Nishank said there was no certainty about the pandemic's end. The solution therefore is to move on with precautions, he said.
Responding to a question on some students accusing the government of being inconsiderate over the plight of students, the education minister said that they were very empathetic and considerate to the cause of the students. Academic year is very important, and a zero academic year will cause tremendous loss to the students.
Meanwhile, chief ministers of 6 states and UTs met on Wednesday and decided to file a review petition against the previous order before the Supreme Court. Nishank said it "pains" to see that education is becoming politicised. I request my colleagues across the political spectrum to abide by the orders of the honorable Supreme Court, he said.
"Leaving the politics aside, I would like to share that, a total of 7.41 lakh candidates out of 8.58 lakh appearing for JEE have downloaded admit cards. Only 332 candidates have requested for change of their centre cities, which are being considered positively. In reference to NEET, a total of 6.84 lakh candidates (out of a total of 15.97 lakh) have downloaded the admit cards in the first five hours," he told HT.
The minister said the Supreme Court, while dismissing the writ petition regarding the postponement of these examinations, also observed, inter alia, the following: “Ultimately life has to go on, and the career of the students cannot be put on peril for long and a full academic year cannot be wasted”. I would like to state that Parliament will start functioning, offices are functioning. In my opinion we have to ensure that there is no zero academic year in the lives of students.
When asked why there is no other alternative being considered -- online entrance exams, or normalising of marks from different board exams to facilitate direct selection, he said that we need to have a transparent system of selection of students into the higher education system. "The most transparent system is an objective test, and this has evolved over the years. If we tinker with the system and selection process, it is going to cause irreparable damage to the careers of the students. I have always reiterated that safety first and then exams. But conducting these exams any time later might lead to a situation where the entire year could be lost, therefore conducting these exams in now with due precautions is a middle path," Nishank added.