By Our Correspondent
NEW DELHI : On December 6 the Supreme Court allowed
candidates aged 25 years and above to apply and appear
in the NEET-UG 2019 examination.
In its interim order the apex court directed the
National Testing Agency (NTA), set up to conduct the
NEET exams, to keep its portal open for a week to enable
candidates to apply for the exam. The court
impleaded NTA as a party in the case, asking it to file
its response in four weeks and posted the case for
A three-judge Bench led by Justice S.A. Bobde observed
that “If they are allowed to appear in the examination,
they shall take the examination provisionally subject to
the final outcome of these matters (case)”.
The medical aspirants Jalaludheen T. and others had
approached the Supreme Court against a Medical Council
of India norm laying down upper age limits for applying
for NEET for MBBS and BDS courses.
The group of aspirants have challenged the Delhi High
Court’s May 11 judgement dismissing the pleas
challenging the MCI notification of January 22, 2018,
laying down the upper age limit of 25 years and 30 years
for general and reserved categories, respectively.
The students have argued that the limitation of 25 years
was “completely arbitrary”.
They said lifting the upper age limits' criterion would
usher in more competitiveness, talent and would be
ultimately for the betterment of the medical
professions. They said the country needed more doctors.
However, the High Court had earlier struck down a clause
in the January 22 notification, which barred candidates
who have studied in open school or students who have had
Biology or Biotechnology as an additional subject or
those who had taken more than two years to complete
their 11th and 12th or those who had studied privately
from appearing in NEET.
in action. NEET, JEE to be held twice a year
NEW DELHI : A beaming HRD Minister announced here on
July 7 that the nascent National Testing Agency (NTA)
will hold the coveted National Eligibility-cum-Entrance
Test (NEET) and the Joint Entrance Examination (Mains)
twice a year.
Addressing a hurriedly called press conference here the
Minister, Mr Prakash Javadekar said : “The National
Testing Agency will conduct them this year. The same
student can take the exam both times a year and the best
score will be counted.”
The exams, he promised, will be “fair, transparent and
flexible” and would be computer-based, though not
online. “Computer centres will be set up where students
with no access to computers can practise from August-end
The students can visit computer centres to prepare
for the tests and the examination will be spread over
five days, from which the students can choose the date
according to convenience.
The NTA, he said, will start conducting the JEE (Mains),
NEET, National Eligibility Test (UGC-NET) for aspiring
degree college teachers, Common Management Admission
Test (CMAT) and Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test (GPAT)
from this year itself, with all examinations being
The NEET will be held in February and May and
JEE (Mains) in January and April. This will give
students two chances and best score will be considered
for admission. JEE (Advanced) will continue to be
conducted by the IITs.
The minister said that the National Testing Agency
(NTA) would off-load much of the burden from the Central
Board of Secondary Education (CBSE), which conducts most
of these exams.
Following Mr. Javadekar’s announcement, a senior
official elaborated on the methods to ensure foolproof
testing. He said the papers would first be downloaded at
the test centres just before the exam and then the
Internet would be disconnected. The papers would be
distributed to all candidates through a local server.
After the exam, the papers would be uploaded to central
servers. There would be encryption and, thus, no
possibility of foul play, the official added.
The two tests — JEE (Mains) and NEET — would be
equated using psychometric methods, standardisation
techniques and best of the equated scores would be used
for the admissions.
This year, about 8.5 lakh students appeared for the
JEE (Mains) in offline mode and about two lakh took it
Cabinet nod to higher edu funding agency
By Our Correspondnt
NEW DELHI : On September 12, 2017 the Union cabinet,
chaired by the prime minister, approved creation of a
non-banking higher education financing agency (HEFA)
that would raise capital from market to invest in higher
Briefing reporters after the cabinet meeting HRD
Minister Prakash Javadekar said that the proposed HEFA
will be set up as a "special purpose vehicle" either
within a public sector bank or under a government-owned
non-banking finance company, which will act as its
The agency, set up with an authorised capital of Rs
2,000 crore, will issue educational bonds to raise Rs
20,000 crore from market to invest in
infrastructure upgrades in IITs/IIMs/NITs and
such other institutions.
"It will also raise money from the debt market (through
government securities), besides mobilising funds from
PSUs and corporates under corporate social
responsibility," the minister added.
Centrally-funded higher educational institutions will be
given loans from the agency to improve infrastructure,
for a period of 10 years.
"While the principal amount will have to be repaid by
the institution concerned, payment of interest on such
loans will be born by the government," Javadekar
The HEFA would also mobilise CSR funds from
PSUs/Corporates, which would in turn be released for
promoting research and innovation in these institutions
on grant basis.
All the Centrally Funded Higher Educational
Institutions would be eligible for joining as members of
the HEFA. For joining as members, the Institution should
agree to escrow a specific amount from their internal
accruals to HEFA for a period of 10 years. This secured
future flows would be securitised by the HEFA for
mobilising the funds from the market. Each member
institution would be eligible for a credit limit as
decided by HEFA based on the amount agreed to be
escrowed from the internal accruals.
"There will be no increase in fee in any institute
because of HEFA,” Javadekar explained.
The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by
Prime Minister Narendra Modi, has approved the proposal
for initiation of the Third Phase of Technical Education
Quality Improvement Programme (TEQIP).
TEQIP, is a World Bank-supported project to help improve
quality of nearly 200 government funded and government
aided technical institutions. With a total outlay of Rs
2,660 crore, the project would have a specific focus on
institutes functioning in seven "low-income states",
including Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, Chhattisgarh,
Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh (UP). All the states are
BJP-ruled while UP is heading for polls.
Of the Rs 2,660 crore outlay for the third
phase of TEQIP equal contribution will come from Centre
(Rs1,330 crore) and World Bank through International
Development Association (IDA) (Rs 1,330 crore).
The focus states for TEQIP are Himachal, J&K,
Uttarakhand, Bihar, Chhattisgarh, Jharkhand, MP, UP,
Rajasthan and eight North-eastern states and Andaman and
Nicobar Islands. The project will be implemented with
the facility of direct funds transfer to the accounts of
beneficiary institutes. It will be initiated in the
current year and will be co-terminus with Fourteenth
Finance Commission (2019-20).
The project will be initiated in the current year
and will be co-terminus with Fourteenth Finance
Commission (FFC) i.e. 2019-20,
The major outcomes of the project are:
Better academic standards, through accreditation,
filling up faculty positions, training faculty in
better teaching methods, improved research outputs
in institution in Focus States/UTs.
Better administration of the institutions with
improved financial/academic autonomy.
Better systems for assessment of Student Learning,
higher transition rates.
Transparent and expeditious release of funds to
institutes by way of Direct Funds Transfer (DFT)
About 200 Government / Government aided engineering
institutes and Affiliating Technical Universities (ATUs)
including the Centrally Funded Technical Institutions
(CFTIs) will be selected.
The project will cover all Government / Government aided
engineering institutes, ATUs and CFTIs from Focus
States/UT. High-performing TEQIP-I/ TEQIP-II Government
/ Government aided institutes/ATUs across the country
would be eligible to participate in twinning
arrangements for knowledge transfer, exchange of
experience, optimizing the use of resources and
developing long-term strategic partnerships.
The Technical Education Quality Improvement
Programme (TEQIP) commenced in 2003 with World Bank
assistance as a long term programme to be implemented in
three phases. The first phase of TEQIP commenced in 2003
and ended on March 31st, 2009. It covered 127 institutes
across 13 States including 18 Centrally Funded Technical
Institutions (CFTIs). TEQIP-II commenced in August 2010,
covering 23 States/Union Territories (UTs) and 191
Institutes (including 26 CFTIs). TEQIP-II is scheduled
to conclude in October, 2016. Both projects have had a
positive impact on the infrastructure and educational
standards in the technical institutions where they were
taken up. Institutions in the central, eastern and
north-eastern region and hill States are at present in
need of similar and specific interventions. The
initiation and implementation of the project TEQIP-III
will bridge this gap.
MHRD gets CABE nod for national testing
By Rajiv Shukla
NEW DELHI : On April 2, 2014 the Central Advisory Board
for Education (CABE) formally approved the Central
government plan to establish a national level testing
The meeting, held at Ashoka Hotel on April 2 was quite
lack-lusture and wasn't as fiery and dynamic as the ones
chaired by Kapil Sibal but it did deliver what was
expected of it.
The National Testing Agency plan, presented by the
Ministry of Human Resource Development Ministry, seeks
to establish a national testing agency that would
conduct multiple Centrally-held admission tests for
higher educational institutions.
The item seems to have been included in the CABE agenda
at the eleventh hour and this was obvious from the
confusing way it was presented at the meeting.
The CABE chairman M M Pallam Raju wanted all higher
education items listed from 1 to 6 in the CABE agenda to
be taken up before lunch as the Higher Education
Secretary Ashok Thakur had to go for a meeting in the
afternoon, but the chair got lost in the debate and
missed three key higher education items which had to be
taken up in the post-lunch session. These items included
National Testing Agency and NCC which the minister said
he had been pursuing for long.
The blueprint for the National Testing Agency, shared by
the MHRD with state education ministers at the CABE meet, represents a definite
shift from the plans pitched by former HRD minister
Kapil Sibal, who had pushed for a single national
The new proposal allows state
governments to continue holding their own admission
tests, and even establish their own testing agencies.
According to the MHRD note prepared for the agenda "the
students emerging from the higher secondary system and
seeking admission to professional programme of study at
the undergraduate level in higher education appear in a
multitude of entrance examinations. These examinations
are conducted either by the institution or by a
consortium of institutions (both at State and National
level) or by State agencies on behalf of institutions
both at the State or National level."
The note said "the standards of these entrance
examinations vary widely. The burden thereby imposed on
the student in terms of time, money (the examination
fees to be paid) and the stress caused in scheduling and
preparing for each examination is tremendous. The
student has to concomitantly restrict his/her choice of
institutions for which he/she can compete based on the
scheduling arrived at. For admission to Social Science
and Humanities courses on the other hand, the
performance of the student at the secondary school
leaving examinations conducted by Boards of Secondary
Education at the Central and State level is the usual
determinant of merit in the admission process.
There are two problems that exist in this case. The
secondary school board examinations are one-off affairs
and the student is not provided the opportunity to
improve upon his/her score. There is, therefore, no
margin for any contingency or unforeseen circumstance
that could affect performance. The anxiety and trauma on
the student and parents has been highlighted on
numerous occasions. Secondly, the wide disparity in
standards of examinations and evaluation across the
State Boards does not render itself to an objective,
transparent and reliable cross-country comparison."
"Concept of National Testing Scheme
The key factors for a nationally acceptable testing
scheme in order to avoid multiple examinations should;
Provide the student with opportunities to improve.
Provide flexibility to the institution in
structuring its admission process.
Be structured in a manner which is perceived to be
transparent, fair, reasonable and reliable.
Accommodate the diversity in learning outcomes at
the secondary level without compromising on its
ability to indicate merit.
Account for the difference in the social-economic
background of students in a manner that is objective
and discernible and to elucidate the diversity in
categorization at the level of States.
Be cost neutral for the testing agency with a
mechanism to share revenue with State Boards.
Generally, admission practices in institutions of higher
learning can be categorized into four types as follows:
Type 1: Admission based on performance in the
examinations of the course last attended. e.g.
admission to undergraduate courses in universities
based on the performance in the Class XII
Type 2: Entrance examinations that test subject
knowledge, achievement and learning levels for a
student to attempt the course for which he/she seeks
admission. e.g. Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE)
conducted by IITs.
Type 3: Standardised aptitude tests that measure the
general cognitive, analytical and communication
abilities rather than achievement. e.g. Common
Aptitude Test (CAT) conducted by IIMs.
Type 4: Admissions based on academic performance
over a period of time or on the application dossier.
e.g. admission to post-graduate courses based on
academic performance at the undergraduate level
along with references from professors.
The reliability and validity of the entrance
examinations is best determined by their ability to
accurately evaluate the candidates’ academic performance
at the university level. Studies indicate that
secondary/high school leaving performance is a better
indicator of academic success. This has also been
stressed by the Committee that went into restructuring
of the JEE.
However, with the wide variation in the examination
processes at the higher secondary level across the
country and the difficulties associated with
normalization of the results of the examinations across
State Boards of Secondary Education makes it well nigh
impossible to arrive at a reliable or reasonable
predictor of relative merit.
Studies have also indicated that essay-based
examinations that focus on writing ability and analytic
arguments may be more effective in predicting academic
success rather than multiple choice tests. This leads to
the issue of objectivity in the examination process.
Reading and evaluating essay type question requires
interpretative judgment on behalf of the evaluator.
The resultant score is to some extent dependent on the
preferences and predilection of the evaluator. The
purpose of standardization of examinations as a means of
assessing inter-se merit between candidates may then be
questionable. Another problem with having an examination
that tests knowledge and achievement through essay type
answers is the complication
caused by the vast numbers of candidates. This would
require a substantially large number of evaluators with
the probability of differences in assessment between
evaluators being higher and objectivity being somewhat
What is required is an admission process that navigates
the intrinsic problems associated with the adoption of a
single admission system in its reliability to predict
academic success as well as being discernible as
credible, transparent, fair and reasonable. A mix and
match strategy in the right proportion would deliver
better results than a single methodology. Therefore, the
design of a national examination for entry to
undergraduate courses that can capture the knowledge and
learning levels along with the aptitude of the student
in a manner which is comparable across the country
requires an Aptitude Test to be administered
concurrently with Subject Tests. The Aptitude Test would
assess the ability of the student to analyse,
comprehend, interpret, communicate and evaluate. To make
the test tailored to the choice of the student and also
to be less stressful on the student, the test could be
administered at two difficulty levels, moderate and
high. In so far as subject tests are concerned, these
tests would perform the standardization function across
States Boards and CBSE/ICSE and the
scores obtained in these tests could normalize the
results obtained by the student in the Board
examinations in the subjects of his/her choice. This
provision would cause States to orient the tests in
these subjects to the state context appealing to local
history, culture and language. It would also be in
keeping with the trend that inter-State mobility amongst
pursuing programmes of study emerging from these
subjects is minimal. The students can appear in a
subject or combination of subjects of their choice
depending on the institutions to which they plan to seek
admission. The tests may be based on multiple choice
questions along with a few short essay type questions to
test the analytical and cognitive abilities based on
subject proficiency learning and understanding. The
performance could be graded both on raw sores as well as
percentiles depending on how a institution wants the
results to be tabulated and provided to it. The tests
could be conducted at least twice a year gradually
increasing the frequency when robust mechanisms have
been put in place. "
National Testing Agency
The Programme of Action, 1992 for implementation of the
National Policy on Education, 1986 describes
far-reaching changes in the examination and evaluation
systems at the university level. Among other things, it
mentions the setting up of a National Testing Service to
be developed as a quality control mechanism, which would
organise national level tests on voluntary
basis and for norms to be evolved for comparability of
performance and also for conducting independent tests.
The National Knowledge Commission in its Report to the
Nation (2006-2009) also mentions the setting up of a
National Testing Service for certification of language
competence, recruitment of language teachers,
development of open and distance education and open
A National Testing Agency would have the mandate to
conduct the testing mechanisms and processes to the
exclusion of institutional testing for admissions.
Provision for States to establish State Testing Agencies
could be made to conduct tests as well as assist the
National Testing Agency in the discharge of its duties.
The National Testing Agency could have an
executive body of whole-time appointees reporting to a
General Council with representation of heads of all
State Testing Agencies amongst other eminent persons. A
revenue sharing model with State Testing Agencies can
also be built in so that the new testing scheme would
not cause a loss of existing revenue to States.
Conducting national tests of the magnitude and reach
contemplated would require managerial and technological
capabilities of the highest levels which need to be
adequately provided in the organizational architecture
of the proposed Agency. Although in the initial stages,
computerized testing methods would have to run
concurrently with paper-pen written tests to account for
differential exposure levels of students across the
country to technology, institutional capacity and
capabilities would have to be upgraded so that the
testing scheme operate entirely using online
computerized methods. The reach projected by the
implementation of the National Knowledge Network and the
National Mission on ICT to institutions
around the country would enable computerized testing to
be made possible. Preparing the students (expected in
the range of 40 to 50 lakhs every year at present
increasing up to 100 lakhs by 2020) would be another
mammoth task, though not impossible if we acknowledge
the success of electronic voting machines being
universalized in the country.
The National Testing Agency would have to take care of
infrastructure and academic aspects of testing.
Infrastructure aspects would include setting up and
operating an e-examination halls consisting of hardware
and system software and necessary support. Academic
aspects such as creation of question banks, graded for
various levels of difficulty while taking into
account types of questions, design of question papers,
declaration of results, how test scores should be viewed
by students and academic institutions etc. would be
taken care by domain experts, psychologists,
educationists and teachers.
A good example to emulate would be to look at the Centre
for Assessment, Evaluation and Research, which is a
partnership between CBSE, and the Pearson Foundation.
Its mandate is to develop research and assessment
capabilities and resources for CBSE, its affiliated
schools and teachers. Its work will be guided by
international best practice in school-based assessment,
teaching techniques and high-stakes examinations. It
carries out research, provides professional development
programmes, and publishes a variety of support
materials, all with the single aim of improving student
The Association of Test Publishers (ATP) is another
example which can be useful while contemplating setting
up a National Testing Agency. As per information on its
website, ATP is a non-profit organization representing
providers of tests and assessment tools and/or services
related to assessment, selection, screening,
certification, licensing, educational or clinical uses.
Leading publishers and assessment services providers in
the testing industry are members of ATP. A Chief
Executive Officer and Board of Directors head up the
Association. A Chairperson is selected each year from
among the Board members and serves a one-year term of
office. Each area of testing has its own division:
Certification/Licensing, Clinical, Education, and
Perhaps the most efficient way to proceed with the
setting up of the National Testing Agency in higher
education would be through the mechanism of a Special
Purpose Vehicle. The best practices from the above
examples and others may be adapted for the purposes of
the Agency, so that the various exam administering
bodies such as JEE, AIEEE, CAT, CMAT, GATE etc. are
brought together under a single body. A model for a
National Agency for Testing has been prepared by CBSE,
which suggests the objectives, structures and functions
of the Agency.
The above issues were discussed in a meeting chaired by
Secretary HE on 21st March, 2013 in which Prof S S
Mantha, Chairman AICTE, Prof Ved Prakash, Chairman UGC,
Mr Vineet Joshi, Chairman CBSE, Prof Devang Khakhar,
Director IIT Bombay, Dr Sanjay Dhande (Ex Dir IIT
Kanpur), Sri Anant Kumar Singh, JS(CU), Sri R P Sisodia,
JS(HE), Dr H C Gupta, Director IIT Delhi, Dr Umesh
Bellur, IIT Bombay, Chairman JAB IIT Delhi, Prof Mondal,
Director DRDO Lab participated in addition to the
representatives of Pearson, Promatric. All the
participants were pf the view that a National Testing
Agency on the above lines needs to be created urgently
not only to take away the burden of these examinations
from the respective bodies (i.e in the case of GATE the
number were increasing exponentially and becoming
difficult for the IIT system to sustain) but also to
conduct the tests scientifically and professionally
using ICT as a major tool. The participants were of the
view that this needs to be done through an SPV to be
created administratively rather than through legislation
by MHRD. Therefore the exams to be undertaken by this
Agency would be on voluntary basis.
The matter is therefore placed before CABE for its in
principle approval so that action as proposed could be