Amid the row over conducting the Joint Entrance Examination (Main) for admission to premier engineering colleges in times of Covid, attendance for the exam held between September 1 and 6 fell by 20 percentage points over the first cycle held in January. While 94.32 per cent of registered students appeared for the exam held in January 2020, attendance fell to 74 per cent for the exam held earlier this month — the first national entrance test amidst the pandemic. According to data shared by the Education Ministry on Twitter Wednesday night, out of 8.58 lakh applicants, 6.35 lakh appeared for the engineering entrance test.
This figure assumes significance given that attendance in pre-Covid days was much higher. According to data shared earlier by the National Testing Agency, attendance for JEE (Main) was 94.11 per cent in January 2019, 94.15 per cent in April 2019, and 94.32 per cent in January this year.
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The conduct of the JEE (Main) was mired in controversy with some students demanding that the examination be put off, given the rising Covid cases in the country. The entrance test had already been postponed twice before.
Despite student protests, the government went ahead with the examination, arguing that careers cannot be put on hold indefinitely. The Supreme Court had also dismissed a plea for postponement, arguing that “career of the students cannot be put in jeopardy”.
JEE (Main) is an online gateway examination for admission to some of the most prestigious engineering institutes in the country. Since 2019, it is being conducted twice a year. The second cycle of the entrance test this year was delayed because of the pandemic. It was finally held in 12 shifts over six days from September 1 to 6.
Although attendance on the first day was only 51%, sparking political reactions from opposition parties, it improved over the subsequent days.
Education Minister Ramesh Pokhriyal released the attendance data late Wednesday night to counter allegations made by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy on Twitter.
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Swamy, who earlier demanded postponement of the exam, alleged on Wednesday that only 8 lakh out 18 lakh registered candidates had appeared for JEE (Main) and called it “a disgrace for the nation”.
“#JEEMains Exams are held twice a year. The previous one was held in January this year. Several students who didn’t appear for the exam in Sept may have done well in the January exam hence did not feel the need to sit for the exam this time. We are ascertaining those number,” Pokhriyal tweeted.
“Any further delay of the exams would not have been in the interest of our hardworking students & their plans for college admissions. Our NDA Government has always been unwavering regarding student welfare & student safety. We will always work for the interests of our youth,” the minister said in another tweet.
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