NEET on September 13: Lessons learnt from JEE that NTA can apply during medical entrance test

After much uproar, outcry and pleas seeking a postponement, the National Testing Agency conducted the Joint Entrance Examinations (Mains) from September 1 to 6. The NTA had issued a set of SOPs to be followed, considering the rise in COVID cases in the country, ranging from increasing the number of examination centres to maintaining social distancing, handing out gloves, and masks to students, and installing sanitisation tunnels in many centres.

While all was good in a number of centres across the country, a few failed to implement SOPs, at least partially. For instance, in a centre in Kochi, students were asked to enter and exit the halls in a phased manner, eliminating the issue of crowding outside the hall. The parents too waited outside distancing themselves from others. The security personnel had ensured that there was no crowding outside the hall. Also, the temperatures of all students were checked.

A student from Bengaluru had a similar incident to narrate. However, he noted how there was crowding while exiting the hall, even though students were to exit row-wise. “Not many arrived at the examination centre at the designated entry time. Also, not every invigilator wore masks,” he noted. At the same time, visuals from some centres Odisha and Bihar showed large crowds outside the exam centres.

On September 13, less than a week from now, the NTA will conduct the medical entrance examination NEET for 15.94 lakh students across the country. But can the government agency successfully administer this examination well across centres? Certainly, there are lessons that they can learn from JEE, both from things that went right and wrong.

At the time of writing this article, several parent bodies are tweeting seeking a postponement of the examination, concerned about the safety of their children. India reported 91,723 COVID cases on September 6. The COVID curve is yet to peak in the country. A petition seeking the same is to be heard by the Supreme Court, even though the chances of postponement appear bleak at this point. The parents are now asking the NTA to open more examination centres.

This, they say will ensure that not many students are inside a building at once. India Wide Parents’ Association chief Advocate Anubha Srivastava Sahai asked, “If weddings can have a maximum of only 50 guests, why should the rule not apply to examination centres?” Increasing the number of centres will also help to avoid crowding outside the centres.

If more personnel can be deployed to monitor phased entry and exit of students to ensure social distancing. This is one aspect that failed in many JEE centres. Security officers can be deployed right outside the centres too. At the same time, there can be a restriction in the number of people who accompany a student to the examination centres.

At the same time, a lot of good practices from JEE Mains can be followed during NEET too. This includes providing masks, gloves and sanitisers to all students, installing sanitisation tunnels and marking squares for students to queue up. There should also be mandatory temperature checks for all students.