Cabinet approves independent body to conduct high stake entrance exams


New Delhi: The Union cabinet on Friday approved the establishment of an independent body to conduct high-profile entrance exams, including the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET) for students aspiring to join medical colleges and the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE-Main) for admission to the elite Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs), twice a year.

The National Testing Agency (NTA) will be an autonomous organization that will oversee the conduct of entrance exams for admission to higher educational institutions. Some four million students appear every year in tests that determine their eligibility for admission to prestigious institutions.

The 2017-18 budget statement mentioned that the government was aiming to set up a testing body.

The cabinet said NTA will relieve the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), All India Council of Technical Education (AICTE) and other organizations that now conduct nearly a dozen entrance tests every year.

“It will relieve CBSE, AICTE and other agencies from responsibility of conducting these entrance examinations, and also bring in high reliability, standardized difficulty level for assessing aptitude, intelligence and problem-solving abilities of students,” a cabinet statement said.

In the absence of any national testing body, CBSE conducts major higher education-related entrance tests apart from school exams at the Class X and Class XII level for CBSE-affiliated schools.

CBSE conducts the JEE-Main exam for engineering schools, including IITs, and the National Eligibility Test on behalf of the University Grants Commission (UGC) for selecting professors to teach in colleges and universities. It also conducts the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) for appointment of teachers across states. It is also in charge of conducting NEET.

The NTA would initially conduct exams which are currently being overseen by the CBSE.

“The entrance examinations will be conducted in online mode at least twice a year, thereby giving adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best,” the cabinet statement said.

The question is whether IITs and other top engineering and medical schools will like entrance tests to be conducted twice a year.

Other examinations “will be taken up gradually after NTA is fully geared up”, the cabinet statement said.

Other high-profile exams include the Common Admission Test (CAT) conducted by the Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs) and the JEE-Advanced and Graduate Aptitude Test in engineering conducted by the IITs.

On Friday, the cabinet also approved the continuation and restructuring of the National Rural Drinking Water Programme to make it outcome-based, competitive and better-monitored. A sum of Rs23,050 crore has been approved for the programme over the next three years.