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National Testing Agency (NTA) will lead to ‘big losses for IITs and IIMs’

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Hindustan Times | Feb 08, 2017   | Gauri Kohli | Opinion |

Experts say testing authorities will not get additional resources from the government, which they earn from admission tests

In what can be a major reform for the Indian higher education sector, finance minister Arun Jaitley, while presenting the General Budget 2017-18 in Parliament on February 1, proposed the setting up of a National Testing Agency (NTA) as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation. NTA will conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions. This would free bodies such as the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), All-India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), and other institutions from administrative responsibilities so that they can focus more on academics. Currently, these bodies conduct tests such as Joint Entrance Examination, National Eligibility cum Entrance Test, and National Eligibility Test, among others. But will the NTA really ease the burden of these higher education bodies?

According to MM Ansari, former member of University Grants Commission (UGC), the idea of NTA was recommended in the national education policy 1986 but it was never implemented by previous governments. “Institutions like IIMs, IITs, universities, and the UGC, which conduct tests, make huge savings for supporting their programmes. NTA will surely relieve them of administrative burdens but that will deprive them of the money they earn. Testing authorities will not get additional resources from the government, which they earn from admission tests,” says Ansari. While assessment is a vital component of education, in a large ecosystem like that of India, testing is required at large scale for ranking of candidates. “A vast majority of universities and colleges do not have the infrastructure and expertise required for modern testing. NTA is a good idea to create robust infrastructure and processed to deliver testing services,” says Prof Dr Bipin Batra, executive director, National Board of Examinations, which conducts tests such as NEET PG and Foreign Medical Graduates Exam. Modern testing involves considerable investments in IT and physical infrastructure, intellectual property and institutionalising best practices in the domain. “Stand alone universities or colleges are usually not in a position to set up such systems or create scalable capacity. Creation of a dedicated agency can provide assessment services as a common pool asset which can be used by other bodies,” adds Prof Dr Batra.

The large scale examinations today have been assigned to CBSE and other Central institutions by default. “While nodal universities have been delivering the responsibility at the state level, many of such examinations are not part of their original mandate. All agencies have contributed their best. The current agencies can work in harmony with NTA and create global benchmarks,” he says. Today, there are several agencies conducting tests which means multiple agencies conducting multiple tests. “If that body (NTA) has no other agenda but conducting entrance exams only then it is a good idea. In fact, most competitive exams have been outsourced at some point of time. These include the Common Admission Test for Indian Institutes of Management and AICTE’s Common Management Admission Test and Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test,” says Anil D Sahasrabuddhe, chairman, AICTE. –  Courtesy

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