National Testing Agency to Revamp Entrance Exams

India boasts housing one of the world’s biggest, growing, vibrant youth population. Compared to many of its counterparts, India has a sizeable amount of young men and women who can steer the country’s future through uncertainties and the challenges that every developed world faces. Though we have the largest share of younger adults, we also have the problem of an underdeveloped education system which is still in its nascent stage as it was few decades ago. Several aspects of Indian education system lack the dynamics that its counterparts offer across the world, which I have discussed in a previous article. A specific area a total reshuffle is needed is the way the multiple entrance exams in the country are organized and conducted. Till now, the exams were conducted by numerous apex bodies with multiple cycles of exams within a year. This had its own endogenous problems as the diversified exams and organizers created the problems of confusion, multiple payments of exam fees, and also the problem of students undergoing several exams every year. However, with the induction of the newly proposed National Testing Agency (NTA), there will be drastic shifts in the way these exams will be conducted in future. This will also have an impact on the way we look at examinations and how the opportunities are distributed to the underprivileged sections of the society as well.

Problems of the Present System
One of the problems of the present mode of conducting the entrance exams is due to the fact that these exams are conducted by the apex bodies related to the field themselves. Thus, while CBSE conducts NEET, JEE etc., CSIR conducts NET for science students. This has become a problem because these bodies have started spending a lion share of their resources for conducting these exams. This affects their day to day functioning and comprises the primary responsibilities that these organizations are expected to discharge. For instance, the UGC-NET exam was initially conducted by Union Grants Commission. However, it was later transferred to the CBSE owing to the difficulties faced by UGC in handling both its regulatory responsibilities and conducting exams.

A Promising Move?
The proposed change in the Indian education system is drastic, but in a pleasant way. This reform will reduce the burden on the students who gives these exams. For instance, the proposed agency will conduct NEET exam twice, which will help the students who now give the exam immediately after their board exams. Similarly, it will also reduce the problems that may arise due to the conduction of exam in different languages. The recent NEET exam was controversial due to the varied difficulty levels in different regional language papers. However, by the formation of a specialized agency, this issue can be avoided. The new agency can also help to reach out to the rural students who otherwise had to spend a lot on coaching and preparation materials. One of the proposals on the table of the cabinet is to make the entrance exam score available to the corporates so that in near future, even the private sector can hire for the jobs from the list prepared by the agency. It is assumed that this can reduce the mismatch between the labour supply and demand sides in the long term and thus answering the problem of growing unemployment in the country. There would be also a relief to the employers, both public and private, as the reduction in the multiplicity of the exams will help them to sort the type and kind of the candidates that they want out of the list. Students would also gain as the can save a lot of expenses that they were incurring so far due to taking part in several exams.

Way Forward
The entire proposal, from setting up of the autonomous body to its self-sustained functioning in the long-run, must be nurtured with necessary legal and financial aid from the side of the government. Similarly, the neutrality of the organization must be ensured with enough independence in decision making and functioning of the body.

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