TODAY -

From NEET to NET: It's time to fix NTA
- The People's Chronicle Editorial :: June 22, 2024 -



THE cancellation of the University Grants Commission-National Eligibility Test or UGC-NET June 2024 examination just a day after it was claimed to have been "conducted successfully at 1205 Exam Centres in 317 cities across the country for 11, 21, 225 candidates" by the National Testing Agency (NTA) on June 18 has once again caused a stir not only among the affected students but also ignited an intense political row between the Opposition and the ruling parties, which is rather unfortunate.

The decision to cancel the UGC-NET June 2024 exam is said to have been made by the Union Ministry of Education after concerns were raised about the examination's integrity.

Issuing a statement in this regard, the Ministry had stated, "On 19th June, 2024, the University Grants Commission (UGC) received certain inputs from the National Cyber Crime Threat Analytics Unit of Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C) under the Ministry of Home affairs on the examination. These inputs prima facie indicate that the integrity of the aforesaid examination may have been compromised."

The, ministry had gone on to say that it was announcing the cancellation of the UGC-NET June 2024 exam "to ensure the highest level of transparency and sanctity of the examination process" to determine the eligibility of Indian nationals for appointment to the post of assistant professors as well as selection of Junior Research Fellowship in universities and colleges.

A day after issuing this statement, Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan said he took full responsibility for the cancellation of the UGC-NET exam and announced the formation of a high-level committee to enhance the NTA's structure, functioning, examination processes, transparency and data security protocols.

He also acknowledged that the exam paper was leaked on Darknet and the question paper that was circulated on the social media platform, Telegram, matched with the original question paper. Consequently, the matter has been handed over to the Central Bureau of Investigation (CBI) for a thorough probe.

Coming as it is amidst the controversy surrounding the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test (Undergraduate) (NEET-UG) 2024, which was also conducted by the NTA; one can see maturity on the part of Union Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan in acting swiftly this time, rather than trying to brush aside the allegations of irregularities, inflated scores, and paper leaks, as he had done in the case of the medical entrance exam and blaming the Opposition of "spreading confusion" by demanding a Supreme Court-monitored probe in the matter until all evidence came tumbling out, forcing him to admit "significant improvements are necessary within the NTA."

As we have pointed out in one of our earlier commentaries through this column, controversy is some that has always dogged the NTA since its establishment in 2017 as an autonomous agency under the Department of Higher Education of the Ministry of Education of India to conduct entrance examinations for admission/fellowship in higher educational institutions in India.

Besides NEET-UG and UGC-NET, NTA has also been entrusted with the task of conducting the JEE (Main) or Joint Entrance Examination (Main) for admission to engineering colleges and institutions, CMAT or Common Management Admission Test for admission to Management Programme(s) and GPAT or Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test for admission of Pharmacy graduates into the Masters programmes in the country.

With so many responsibilities given to it, NTA is bound to face many shortcomings.

In fact, on its website, NTA has stated, "To assess competence of candidates for admissions and recruitment has always been a challenge in terms of matching with research based international standards, efficiency, transparency and error free delivery".

Given this scenario, the political row between the Opposition and the Ruling parties over the NEET-UG or UGC-NET exam controversies should be directed on bringing about a structural change in the entire system of the country instead of blaming each other with least regard for the grievances of thousands and lakhs of students whose academic careers have now been left hanging in the balance.



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