Union Budget 2017: National Testing Agency to conduct entrance exams, special fund for secondary education

The agency will be an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organisation to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions.
Students at an examination hall.(Image for representational Purpose only)
Students at an examination hall.(Image for representational Purpose only)

NEW DELHI: Union Finance Minister Arun Jaitley in the annual budget for 2017-18 on Wednesday announced setting up an autonomous National Testing Agency for conducting entrance exams to higher educational institutions besides restructuring the University Grants Commission and autonomy to more higher institutions.

" We propose to establish a National Testing Agency as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct all entrance examinations for higher education institutions. This would free CBSE, AICTE and other premier institutions from these administrative responsibilities so that they can focus more on academics," said Jaitley while delivering the budget.

The FM also said the government will introduce “Annual Learning Outcomes” method to improve the quality of education in the country. He said that the emphasis will be given on science education and flexibility in curriculum to promote creativity through local innovative content.

“Good quality institutions would be enabled to have greater administrative and academic autonomy. Colleges will be identified based on accreditation and ranking, and given autonomous status. A revised framework will be put in place for outcome-based accreditation and credit-based programmes,” the FM said.

He said the government will also introduce an “innovation fund” for secondary education in the country. This will help in ICT-enabled transformation, said Jaitley. The innovation fund for secondary education would be made available for 3479 educationally backwards blocks of the country.

The government is also aiming at reforming the University Grants Commission (UGC) aimed ta reforms at UGC and give autonomy to colleges and institutions.

Last month, the Union cabinet approved autonomy for premier B-Schools, Indian Institutes of Management (IIMs). The government is now expected to take it up before the Parliament in the current ongoing budget session for its approval.

Jaitley also announced that the government would launch “Swayam” which would allow free online education in important disciplines to youth. “Access to Swayam platform will be widened by links to DTH channel through which students can have access to over 150 courses online,” he said.

The education sector has been allocated Rs 79,686 crore in the budget against Rs 72,394 crore, which is a over 10 per cent increase in budget allocations to the sector over the last budget. While school education has been allocated Rs 46356.25 crore, for higher education it is Rs 33,329.70 crore.

The government which had declared to come up with 20 world class institutions, Rs 50 crore has been allocated for the purpose.

Besides given the priority on reasearch works, PM Research Fellowship has been created and allocated Rs 75 crore. Under this scheme, 1000 fellowships will be provided annually from 2017-18 to those engineering students studying in IITs who have secured at least 8.5 CGPA.

For improvement in salary scale of university and college teachers, budget has been hiked from Rs 29,702.20 crore to Rs 33,079.70 crore. Besides budgetary support to Indian Institutes of Information Technology at Allahabad, Gwalior, Jabalpur and Kanchipuram has been hiked from Rs 148.50 to Rs 240 crore. Similarly allocation has been hiked from Rs 60 crore to Rs 109.45 crore for setting up IIITs in PPP mode.

For School education, budgetary support against National Education Programme like Sarva Shiksha Abhiyan has been enhanced by Rs 1,000 crore to Rs 23,500 crore, while teachers training and adult education has been allocated Rs 925.67 from Rs 750.80 crore in the last budget. Mid Day meal Scheme has got Rs 10,000 crore, a hike of Rs 300 from last budget. For school education in Madarsas and minorities institutions, the allocation has remained the same at Rs 120 crore since last budget, while it got Rs 296 crore in the 2015-16 budget.

Budget under Unnat Bharat Abhiyan (UBA) and National Academic Depository has also been doubled from Rs 10 crore to Rs 20 crore and Rs 5 crore to Rs 10 crore respectively from the last budget. UBA is to enable higher educational institutions to work with the people in rural India in identifying development challenges and evolving appropriate solutions for accelerating sustainable growth.

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