Cabinet clears national body to conduct entrance tests for higher education

The Union Cabinet on Friday approved the establishment of the National Testing Agency (NTA), an independent body dedicated to conducting entrance tests for higher education, on the lines of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States. The NTA will conduct entrance tests entrusted to it by any department or ministry. As a first step, it will take over all entrance examinations being organised by the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), including UGC’s National Eligibility Test (NET), Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) and NEET.

Sources said the Human Resource Development Ministry is aiming to set up NTA in the next eight months, either in IIT Kanpur or IIT Delhi. Currently, more than 40 lakh students appear for seven entrance tests — CAT, JEE (Main), JEE (Advanced), GATE, CMAT, NEET, NET — held by the CBSE, IITs, IIMs and AICTE every year.

Although NTA has been envisioned as the country’s largest exam conducting body, it remains to be seen if the IIMs and IITs will be willing to hand over CAT and JEE (Advanced), respectively, to this body. “All those decisions can be taken once the NTA is set up,” said a senior HRD Ministry official.

“The entrance examinations will be conducted in online mode at least twice a year, thereby giving adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best,” stated the government’s press statement released on Friday. “NTA will be established as a Society under the Societies Registration Act, 1860 as an independent, autonomous, self-reliant and self-sustained premier testing organization, with flexibility to pay market salaries to the experts.”

Several governments in the past have proposed and, subsequently, shelved the idea of establishing such an agency. The Programme of Action (1992) for implementation of the National Policy on Education (1986) advocated the setting up of a national testing body. Successive committees, such as the National Knowledge Commission (2006-2009) and the Ashok Misra Committee on review of JEE system (2015), recommended constituting an independent body for the conduct of the examinations.

The ministry expects that the examination fee paid by 40 lakh students should make NTA fully self-reliant and financially independent to meet all administrative and operational expenses. This body will be subjected to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit. Initially, the government will provide a one-time grant of Rs 25 crore for NTA to start operation. It will have a board of governors and a director general, who will be an eminent educationist.

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