:: Related Stories  ::

NTA is in operation, minister tells LS
NEW DELHI : The National Testing Agency (NTA) has come into operation and would initially hold "those entrance examinations," which are currently being conducted by the CBSE, Human Resource Development (HRD) Minister Prakash Javadekar told the Lok Sabha on March 26.

This, he said, will relieve the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) from the burden of holding multiple tests every year.

"The NTA will conduct the first set of examinations from 2019 onward," the minister said in a written reply to a question.

Although the Cabinet had given its formal approval to NTA in October last year there was no specific reaction from the government about the proposed NTA despite repeated requests and reminders from the CBSE.

The CBSE, which holds about nine entrance and recruitment tests, including the Joint Entrance Examinations (JEE) for admission to undergraduate engineering programmes, and the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (NEET) for admission to undergraduate medical courses, has been requesting the HRD ministry to relieve it from the burden of conducting multiple tests since 2015.

"The government has decided to set up a National Testing Agency as a society registered under the Indian societies registration Act, 1860, as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions in the country," Javadekar told the House in his written reply.

He said the NTA will initially conducted the exams currently being conducted by the CBSE, such as JEE and NEET, and will subsequently take over more and more responsibilities.

"It will conduct the examination in the online mode twice a year in order to give adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best and develop standard operating procedure (SOPs) for handling any glitches that may arise in the course of conducting online examinations," the minister added.

A proposal for the establishment of an agency to conduct all entrance examinations and recruitment tests for various central government departments was first mooted by the HRD ministry in 2013, during the second term of the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance (UPA) regime.

Background

Presenting the general budget for 2017-18 in Parliament in February, Finance Minister Arun Jaitley had announced setting up of the NTA as “an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization” to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions.

“This would free the CBSE , AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) and other premier institutions from these administrative responsibilities (holding entrance tests) so that they can focus more on academics,” he had said.

In course of the finalisation of the proposal in consultation with the ‘stakeholders,’ however, a view emerged that the proposed NTA should initially conduct only those competitive examinations which are being held by the CBSE.

More than 4 million students appear for seven tests — CAT, JEE (Main), JEE (Advanced), GATE, CMAT, NEET, NET — conducted by the CBSE, IITs, IIMs and AICTE every year.

The proposal for a National Testing Agency was first mooted as the additional agenda item for discussion at the 61st meeting of Central Advisory Board of Education (CABE) held on 2nd April 2013 at 11.00 AM. The meeting noted the proposal and desired that the proposal be taken forward in consultation with all stakeholders. Since then the proposal has seen many ups and downs till February 2017 when it was formally included in the Finance Minister's budget speech.
 

 

 NTA in action. NEET, JEE to be held twice a year

By Our Correspondent
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 or September.”

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 computer-based.

2 chances

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 online.

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 education institutions.

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 promoter.

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 explained.

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.

TEQIP

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:

  1. Better academic standards, through accreditation, filling up faculty positions, training faculty in better teaching methods, improved research outputs in institution in Focus States/UTs.

  2. Better administration of the institutions with improved financial/academic autonomy.

  3. Better systems for assessment of Student Learning, higher transition rates.

  4. Transparent and expeditious release of funds to institutes by way of Direct Funds Transfer (DFT) System.

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.

Background:

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 agency

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 agency.

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 examination.

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 examinations.

  • 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 lost.

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 students
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 educational resources.

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 learning.

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 Industrial /Organizational.

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 taken.

 

 Best viewed in 1024*768 pixel resolution  |   Disclaimer   |   © Academics-India.com