One-nation-one-test plan gets another push

NTA tests to be on a par with international standards

The proposal to set up a National Testing Agency (NTA) is yet another ambitious move by the Centre to push its “one-nation- one-test” agenda to relieve students from the burden of facing multiple entrance tests, even as the Human Resource Development Ministry recently said the new system will not be imposed on any institution.

According to the ministry’s proposal, the basic mandate of the NTA will be to conduct efficient, transparent tests of international standards in order to access the competency of candidates for admissions to colleges and professional institutes of higher learning including engineering, medical and management.

The proposal also seeks to hold nationwide tests for the purpose of recruitment in various government departments and granting scholarships in future.

“The service of the agency could be availed by any institution. It will be first of its kind in the country with administrative and financial autonomy, self-reliant and self-sustained premier testing organisation,” ministry official said.

Citing the reasons for introducing the NTC, the official said students emerging from the higher secondary system and seeking admission to professional programmes of study at the undergraduate level in higher education appear for a multitude of entrance examinations.

These examinations are conducted either by the institution or by a consortium of institutions, or by State agencies on behalf of institutions at the state and national levels.  
“The standards of these entrance examinations vary widely. The burden thereby imposed on the student in terms of time, money to be paid as examination fees and the stress caused in scheduling and preparing for each examination is tremendous. The anxiety and trauma on the student and parents has been highlighted on numerous occasions which need to be addressed,” the official said.

Besides, there is a “wide disparity” in standards of examinations and evaluation process across which does not render itself to an “objective, transparent and reliable cross-country comparison”, he added.

Making a brief announcement of the plan, Union Higher Secondary Education Secretary Ashok Thakur recently said the HRD ministry wanted the NTA to start functioning from 2014.

“To start with, it will conduct the National Eligibility Test (NET) and the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE).

University Grants Commission (UGC), All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs) have given in principal approval to the proposal.

The GATE has also agreed to come on board. “By and large, they have agreed to come on board,” Thakur said at a press conference held by the HRD minister who subsequently promised that it will not be a compulsion for any institution or state to join the new system.

A similar move had been initiated by Telecom Minister Kapil Sibal, when he was in-charge of the HRD ministry.

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