COVID vs Education: The Exam Dilemma
The Hon. Supreme Court in its recent verdict has mandated the National Testing Agency to go-ahead with conducting NEET and JEE exams which means that more than a 1.5 million candidates will have to go to exam centres and physically take these exams which poses a threat to their health and safety. Not just their safety, the safety of their families, neighbours, everybody around them and thus this judgement is being widely criticized.
But there is also a section which includes the Central Govt that supports this judgement, their arguments are fair too. The Supreme Court noted that there is no foreseeable end to this pandemic and in that case, if we keep deferring these exams this academic year will be a wash for the students willing to pursue these courses. Now, this is an undeniable fact.
Now some people suggest that these exams should be taken in online mode, so students can take them from their home and thus avoid getting exposed to the virus. This is a good idea until we take into account the size and expanse of our country. Million-plus candidates are taking these exams, many from rural areas, many coming from unprivileged backgrounds. Every year we hear stories of sons and daughters of cobblers, rickshaw drivers cracking JEE and getting into IITs, they can’t be expected to have a high-speed internet connection and a good working computer to take these exams. Now we may say that such people could be called to centres to take the exams but that creates a situation of double standards for candidates, putting unprivileged candidates at risk, which is unacceptable.
A possible way out could be to conduct these exams in at least 6 different slots with the same number of centres so that at any particular time there are only 1/6th of the candidates at a centre compared to what normally would have been, so at least social distancing can be ensured. This will certainly increase the costs and the administrative burden but given that this matter concerns the health and safety of the youth of our country and will also set a precedent for many other exams that are supposed to happen this year, that’s the least that can be done.