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General Studies 2 >> Polity

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1. Context
The National Testing Agency (NTA) is at the centre of controversy over alleged irregularities in competitive exams conducted by it. Amid the raging row over the recently conducted NEET-UG and UGC-NET, the agency saw a change of guards last week and a high-level panel is reviewing its functioning
2. About the National Testing Agency(NTA)
The NTA was established in 2017 as an independent and self-sufficient testing organization under the Ministry of Education, previously known as the Ministry of Human Resource Development (HRD). It is recognized as a registered society under the Societies Registration Act, of 1860, and is subject to the Right to Information (RTI) Act. Prior to the creation of the NTA, various government entities such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and central universities like Delhi University and Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) conducted their own examinations
3. Envision of National Testing Agency (NTA)
The origins of the NTA can be traced back to the Programme of Action 1992, associated with the National Education Policy 1986, which advocated for the creation of a national-level examination body. In 2010, a committee of directors from the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) recommended forming this agency through legislation to guarantee its independence and transparency. It was designed based on the model of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States. The establishment of the NTA was announced in 2017 and received cabinet approval shortly thereafter. Vineet Joshi, who is currently the Chief Secretary of Manipur, was appointed as the first Director General. Subodh Kumar Singh, who succeeded him, was removed from the position last week
4.Exams Conducted by NTA
  • The NTA administers three major undergraduate entrance exams: JEE-Main for engineering, NEET-UG for medical courses, and CUET-UG for admissions to various other undergraduate programs.
  • Each year, these exams see participation from over 5 million candidates. In addition, the NTA conducts CUET-PG for postgraduate admissions, UGC-NET, and CSIR UGC-NET. UGC-NET is used to determine eligibility for junior research fellowships, assistant professorships, and PhD admissions in Indian universities and colleges.
  • CSIR UGC-NET is accepted for PhD admissions in disciplines such as Chemical Sciences, Earth, Atmospheric, Ocean and Planetary Sciences, Life Sciences, Mathematical Sciences, and Physical Sciences.
  • The NTA also oversees the Common Management Admission Test (CMAT), Hotel Management Joint Entrance Examination, Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test, and entrance exams for institutions like Delhi University, Jawaharlal Nehru University, the Indian Institute of Foreign Trade (IIFT), and the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR)
5. Controversy around NTA
  • This year, the NTA faced criticism for awarding grace marks to 1,563 NEET candidates to compensate for lost time due to examination delays at seven centres.
  • This decision was challenged in the Supreme Court, with claims that it inflated scores and resulted in a record 67 candidates sharing the top rank.
  • Consequently, the grace marks were withdrawn, and a retest was conducted for these candidates. Additionally, the NEET question paper was reportedly leaked, as discovered by the Bihar Police.
  • The UGC-NET exam was cancelled a day after being conducted due to concerns about its integrity, with the Education Ministry confirming that the exam paper had been leaked on the darknet. As a precautionary measure, the CSIR UGC-NET was also postponed
6. Way Forward
The NTA is currently prioritizing the timely release of CUET-UG results, which are crucial for the university academic calendar, as well as re-conducting UGC-NET and scheduling a new date for CSIR-UGC NET. Following the removal of Subodh Singh as Director General, ITPO Chairman Pradeep Singh Kharola has taken on the additional responsibility of this role. A high-level panel formed by the Centre will provide recommendations on reforming the examination process, enhancing data security protocols, and reviewing the structure and operations of the NTA. The panel is expected to submit its report within two months
Source: Times of India

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