Minister of Education Ramesh Pokhriyal Nishank has defended the decision of the centre to go forward with JEE and NEET exams in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic due to “constant pressure from parents and students.”
The Indian Institute of Technology Joint Entrance Exam (JEE) and the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to medical courses are scheduled for next month.
In an interview to the government broadcaster DD News, Mr Nishank said 80 per cent students who will appear for JEE has already downloaded admit cards.
“We have been under constant pressure from parents and students, asking why we are not allowing JEE and NEET. The students were very worried. In their minds they were thinking for how long will they continue to study?” the Education Minister told DD News.
“Out of 8.58 lakh students who registered for JEE, 7.25 lakh candidates have downloaded their admit cards… We are with students. Their safety comes first, then their education,” Mr Nishank said.
Mr Nishank said a decision would be taken on reopening schools based on guidance provided by the Ministry of Home Affairs and the Ministry of Health.
Students appearing for the JEE and NEET would have to wear masks and hand gloves to reduce the risk of coronavirus infection and carry a personal bottle of water and hand sanitizer to the exam centre.
Access to the JEE and NEET examination centres will be phased, and students will need to clear a thermal scan to gain entry. In anyone whose body temperature is high, every exam centre may have an isolation area, suggesting potential fever.
Some parents, students and experts working in the field of education, however, have raised concerns over holding the exams at a time when coronavirus cases in India have been rising. Climate activist Greta Thunberg, in a tweet, has also supported calls to postpone the exams.
Politicians across parties have backed the demand to postpone the exams, highlighting that the move was not only unsafe because of COVID-19, but also unjust due to floods in parts of some states such as Assam, Bihar, Gujarat, Chhattisgarh, Kerala and Karnataka, among others.
A fresh surge of 60,975 new infections registered in the last 24 hours till Tuesday morning took India’s coronavirus tally to 31,67,323, the Health Ministry has said. The number of fatalities linked to the pandemic rose to 58,390.
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