The JEE and NEET, examinations for admission to undergraduate engineering and medical courses respectively, have been postponed to September due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The exams had been scheduled for the second half of July.
“Keeping in mind the safety of students and to ensure quality education we have decided to postpone JEE and NEET examinations,” said Human Resource Development Minister Ramesh Nishank Pokhriyal in a tweet on Friday evening.
The Joint Entrance Examination-Main (JEE-Main) will be now be held from September 1-6, JEE Advanced will be held on September 27 and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) will be held on September 13, he said, noting that “students’ health is the first priority”.
Earlier in the evening, as Mr. Nishank participated in a webinar on fitness, over 3,000 people bombarded the comments of the live session with demands to postpone examinations, forcing the webinar host to raise the question with the Minister as well. “Can physical fitness be possible with depression and mental stress?” asked Swati from Assam, as students trended the hashtags #HealthOverExams and #PostponeNEETandJEE.
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National associations of parents’ have also been campaigning for their children’s health to be considered as most important.
On Wednesday, parents of NEET candidates living in West Asian countries filed a plea in the Supreme Court demanding that examination centres be set up in those countries or that the examination be postponed.
On Thursday, the Minister had set up a panel in response to the concerted campaign, asking National Testing Agency (NTA) Director General Vineet Joshi and other experts to review the situation. NTA conducts both NEET and JEE-Main —which have a total of 25 lakh candidates this year — although JEE-Advanced is run by the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).
The Minister’s tweet regarding the postponement received over 22,000 likes within one hour, with most students expressing gratitude and relief through memes and hashtags.
“Here’s my bet. In August, the drama will start again to postpone NEET-JEE. During that time daily cases will be 35,000-40,000,” said medical aspirant Abhishek Shah. “They should decide the date after daily COVID cases starts decreasing, which will probably be after September/October.”
Change in exam centre
The postponement in the entrance examinations will lead to further delay in the beginning of the academic year for new students, potentially wiping out almost an entire semester. Usually, students start classes in August and the first semester runs till December.
According to an NTA notice, students can request for a change in their examination centre until July 15, given that travel is still disrupted in many areas. Admit cards will be available for download 15 days before the examination date.
JEE-Main was originally scheduled to be held between April 7 to 11, while NEET was scheduled for May 3, after school board examinations were completed. However, due to the spread of COVID-19, board examinations were interrupted as all schools were closed in mid-March, followed by a countrywide lockdown from March 24.
JEE-Main and NEET were then rescheduled to July 18-23 and July 26 respectively. For IIT aspirants, JEE-Main is only the first stage, followed by the JEE-Advanced examination which had been rescheduled for August 23.
However, although the lockdown has been lifted, the rising number of COVID-19 cases led to further concern of infection. Now, it remains to be seen if the spread of the virus slows down sufficiently over the next two months to safely hold the examination in September.