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Keep politics out of education

by Vasudevan Jayanth
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Why is there so much hue and cry about the holding of NEET and JEE? How can a student get a degree without taking his final examination and passing it? Is it alright to declare all students with arrears in their college study “passed” even if they have applied for and paid the fee for re-examination?

Obviously, the answer to all these questions is a clear ‘No’. With elections approaching in some States later this year or even next year, political parties have turned to Education to play their vote-seeking games. And the pandemic virus is becoming a tool in their hands. The NEET/JEE issue has gone to the Supreme Court and, at the behest of the Congress party, six State governments and political parties have sought further postponement of these entrance tests. The question is will not a further delay lead to the loss of a whole academic year? Is that what the parents and students want? 

Most States wanted to write off the final semester examinations of undergraduate and postgraduate courses on account of COVID-19. The University Grants Commission (UGC) put its foot down and the Apex Court ruled in its favour stating that States can only postpone not call off these examinations. Imagine passing lakhs of students and awarding them degrees without passing the final exam!

Similarly, the Tamil Nadu government took all educationists and institutions by surprise with its decision to pass all college students with arrears in previous semesters. They should have only applied for and paid the fee for re-examination? Will all these students vote for the ruling party in the next election because of this grand concession?

You can do it for the Tenth standard or lower classes but not in college. Already the standards are low and our graduates are “unemployable,” according to industry recruiters. Where will this lead to?

What’s wrong?

Now, what is wrong with NEET or JEE? The Centre and the testing authority are ready to make all necessary arrangements to provide a “secure environment” for students to take the test in mid-September. But most Opposition parties are crying from rooftops that a test at this juncture will lead to the spread of the virus. Consider how the Tamil Nadu government recently arranged so many centres for a few dozen students across the State for a Class XII re-exam. Special buses were run and in some centres there were more staff than students to supervise it.

While Central and State governments have a responsibility along with the regulatory bodies to conduct these examinations on time, they cannot be called off or postponed indefinitely.

There may be a good reason not to reopen schools and colleges at this juncture. It may be against the interests of students to do away with examinations and write off an entire academic year. Online education is the new norm in the digital world and governments as well as political parties may do well to provide connectivity in all villages and equip poor students with the digital tools of the modern era. That is the way forward. India cannot afford to push into the job market unqualified graduates and postgraduates.

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