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Testing agency, a boon to students

DH News Service, Bengaluru, Nov 25 2017, 0:38 IST

The Centre's decision to set up a National Testing Agency (NTA) for conducting entrance examinations for higher educational institutions is welcome as the multitude of tests, which exist now, are increasingly posing many challenges and difficulties to students. The NTA is conceived as an autonomous and self-sustaining body which will begin by conducting tests now being held by the CBSE and the AICTE and later conduct all other examinations. This will help bodies like the CBSE to concentrate on their core functions, while a specialised and dedicated agency can hold tests more efficiently. Some of the exams to be conducted by the NTA are JEE-Main, NEET, NET etc. The exams will be conducted online and most likely twice a year. Holding the exams twice a year is intended to reduce pressure on students who now have to take these tests immediately after their board or college exams.

The government has been increasingly moving towards a centralised examination system. While national institutions like the IITs and the IIMs have for long had such a system, the recently introduced NEET covers a wider pool. But there are problems in implementing such a system, as NEET has shown. Since education falls in the Concurrent List, states have a major say on matters related to it. Some states have evolved their own testing systems. Karnataka's CET is an example. Another problem is the diversity of educational systems and languages and the unevenness of standards. A single Delhi-administered testing system will hurt the chances of millions of students who might be handicapped in answering in English or even in Hindi. This was tragically demonstrated during the last NEET in Tamil Nadu. So when there is a single agency and nationwide tests it must be ensured that they are held in standardised formats in all languages.

Apart from the diversity of languages, the unevenness of syllabus and teaching methods in different parts of the country may also have to be reckoned with. If these factors are not taken into consideration, the new system will affect the performance of students from rural areas and small towns and those from the lower social and economic strata. The government expects NTA to benefit about 40 lakh students. It also hopes to bring in high reliability and a standardised difficulty level in assessing the aptitude, intelligence and problem-solving abilities of the students. The very exercise of holding so many tests for millions of students without a fault every year is forbidding. The entire plan poses a serious challenge and calls for utmost care and caution.

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