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Problems with the National Testing Agency (NTA) in India UPSC NOTE

 Background on NTA and Recent Controversies:

  • The National Testing Agency (NTA) has faced significant criticism due to allegations of cheating, paper leaks, and irregularities in exams such as NEET (National Eligibility cum Entrance Test) for medical admissions and UGC-NET for Ph.D. and assistant professor appointments.

  • Subodh Kumar Singh, the NTA’s director general, has been removed from his position.

  • The Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) is investigating the irregularities.

  • A high-level panel has been established to create a roadmap for systemic reform of the NTA.

Overview of the NTA:

  • Established in 2017, the NTA is an autonomous organization under the Union Education Ministry.

  • Its director general and governing body are appointed by the Union government, but it is registered as a society, raising questions about government liability for NTA actions.

  • The NTA’s mandate is to conduct efficient, transparent, and internationally standardized tests for admissions and recruitment.

  • It took over major exams like the JEE (engineering admissions), NEET-UG, UGC-NET (previously conducted by the CBSE), and entrance tests for Jawaharlal Nehru University and Delhi University.

  • The National Education Policy 2020 recommended that the NTA conduct entrance or aptitude tests for all universities in India.

  • Currently, the NTA is responsible for over 20 examinations.

Problems Faced by the NTA:

  • The NTA was initially intended to conduct only computer-based tests to ensure efficiency and prevent malpractices such as paper leaks and cheating.

  • Despite this, the UGC-NET exam was reverted to pen-and-paper mode this year, leading to its cancellation due to cybercrime inputs. 

  • It will be conducted again as a computer-adaptive test.

  • The Health Ministry refused to allow NEET-UG to shift to a computer-based exam due to concerns about rural students and Supreme Court rulings, forcing the NTA to conduct it in a pen-and-paper mode.

  • The NTA is understaffed, with only about 25 permanent staff positions, and many functions are outsourced to technical partners, straining its resources.

  • NEET-UG had over 23 lakh candidates across 5,000 centers, stretching the NTA thin.

  • The reliance on third-party technical partners for IT infrastructure has raised concerns about accountability and potential exploitation by unscrupulous players.

  • The NTA lacks robust mechanisms for handling large-scale pen-and-paper exams, including secure question paper setting, encryption, printing, transportation, and answer sheet collection.

  • A high-level panel led by former ISRO chief K. Radhakrishnan will recommend reforms within two months to improve examination processes, data security, and the NTA’s functioning.

Proposed Solutions:

  • Increase NTA Manpower and Infrastructure:

  • Equip the NTA to handle large-scale pen-and-paper exams, improving on the CBSE system.

  • This approach is seen as more equitable for students in rural and remote areas with limited technology access.

  • Decentralize Testing:

  • Some state governments and university professors, particularly from JNU, suggest returning entrance tests to individual institutions to better address diverse needs.

  • Radical Reform of the Assessment System:

  • Propose systemic changes to eliminate high-stakes entrance exams that create pressure, foster an inequitable coaching industry, and incentivize malpractice.

  • Implement periodic assessments of knowledge and aptitude during school years, using online testing and AI-based proctoring, overseen by the NTA.

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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Problems with the National Testing Agency (NTA) in India UPSC NOTE
Problems with the National Testing Agency (NTA) in India UPSC NOTE
Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam
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