Saturday, June 01, 2013

Government sets up agency to streamline entrance exams

After successfully completing the first common engineering entrance exam for all central government-funded technical colleges, the government on Friday announced the setting up of a National Testing Agency (NTA) to streamline all such high-profile competitions. These include the Common Management Aptitude Test (CMAT) and the National Eligibility Test (NET).

The new agency will handle such tests instead of regulators such as the University Grants Commission (UGC), the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE), the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), and institutions such as the Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs).

“The rationale for setting up the NTA lies in ensuring that multiplicity of entrance examination leading to stress on the students is addressed in a comprehensive manner by formulating a uniform entrance examination for admissions in different branches of higher learning,” the Ministry of Human Resource Development (MHRD) said in a statement.

The ministry also set up a seven-member task force led by Sanjay Dhande, the former director of IIT-Kanpur that will have representatives from CBSE, UGC, AICTE, the National Council of Education, Research and Training (NCERT) and the MHRD.

“Among the three wings of education—teaching, learning and evaluation—the third one is the worse off. The effort is to professionalize that and build expertise in this domain,” said Dhande. “The new agency will be a body like ETS (Educational Testing Service) of the US,” Dhande said.

ETS conducts examinations such as Graduation Record Examination (GRE) and the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). Evaluation is about building expertise in areas such as psychometry, statistics and domain knowledge and NTA will engage with that, he said.

NTA will be a professional body that will use external test delivery agencies to conduct competitions, according to an MHRD official who spoke on condition of anonymity. The official said the Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE), NET, the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) and similar other entrance exams can be conducted by private entities under the supervision of the NTA.

While CMAT is an entrance exam for graduate courses run by B-schools under the AICTE, GATE is an entrance test for postgraduate courses and doctoral programmes in the IITs and the Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore. GATE is also used by some public sector undertakings (PSUs) to select entry-level candidates.

NET is conducted for determining the eligibility of candidates for junior research fellowships and lectureships at various Indian universities and colleges. Currently GATE is conducted by the IITs, NET by UGC, CMAT by AICTE and CTET by CBSE. More than five million students sit for these tests every year.

The MHRD said that the task force will prepare a blueprint for “creating a special purpose vehicle” to take the NTA forward. The ministry expects NTA to start conducting tests in 2014. The ministry said the plan was discussed with state education ministers in the first week of April.

Besides education regulators and institutes, the ministry has already interacted with a few private testing agencies that can be roped in as test delivery partners. “We have attended at least two rounds of dialogue and they are open to the idea of partnering private players,” said the head of a testing firm requesting anonymity.

Source: Mint, June 1, 2013

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