The Ministry of Human Resource Development has moved a note for the Cabinet to set up an independent body dedicated to entrance tests for higher education, on the lines of the Educational Testing Service (ETS) in the United States.
Currently, over 40 lakh students appear for seven entrance tests — CAT, JEE (Main), JEE (Advanced), GATE, CMAT, NEET, NET — conducted by the CBSE, IITs, IIMs and AICTE every year. The National Testing Service (NTS), as proposed by the HRD Ministry, will assume responsibility for conducting all these examinations.
“The primary mandate of bodies such as CBSE and AICTE does not include conducting entrance exams on such a large scale. This leaves them stretched for time and resources. In the US, this task is assigned to ETS,” a ministry official said.
Several governments in the past have proposed and, subsequently, shelved the idea of establishing the NTS. The Programme of Action, 1992 for implementation of the National Policy on Education, 1986 advocated the setting up of a National Testing Service. Successive committees like the National Knowledge Commission (2006-2009) and the Ashok Misra Committee on review of JEE system (2015) recommended constituting an independent body for the conduct of the examinations.
The Ministry is now making a fresh attempt to revive the plan after the CBSE wrote to the University Grants Commission about being overburdened with the responsibility of too many entrance tests. Currently, the board organises JEE (Main), UGC-NET and NEET apart from the board examinations for Classes X and XII every year.
Sources said the note for the Cabinet proposes to set up the NTS as a society under the Indian Societies Act by June 2017. To begin with, the NTS will hold NEET, JEE, GATE, UGC-NET from October 2017 to March 2018. The Ministry invited comments on the proposal from different ministries in December. It will send the note for the Cabinet’s consideration as soon as the idea is approved by the Committee on Establishment Expenditure.
The Ministry expects that the examination fee paid by 40 lakh students should make NTS fully self-reliant and financially independent to meet all administrative and operational expenses. This body will be subjected to a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit. Initially, the government will provide a one-time grant of Rs 50 crore for NTS to start operation. It will have a governing council and a director general.