Government must upgrade NTA infrastructure, act swiftly against delinquents

The government needs to urgently step in to ensure proper functioning of the NTA.
Students stage a protest over the NEET-UG and UGC-NET examinations issue, in New Delhi, Thursday, June 20, 2024.
Students stage a protest over the NEET-UG and UGC-NET examinations issue, in New Delhi, Thursday, June 20, 2024.Photo | PTI

The controversy surrounding the conduct of the National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test-Undergraduate (NEET-UG) examination by the government-controlled National Testing Agency (NTA) and the cancellation of University Grants Commission’s National Eligibility Test have brought into focus grave systemic flaws and threatens to undermine the credibility of the education system. After initially denying any wrongdoing, the government has admitted the lapses brought to light by the aspirants. Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan has said that “some irregularities” have been found and has promised strict action against those responsible.

The NTA is responsible for conducting crucial examinations such as the JEE, NEET, UGC-NET and CMAT. There have been problems galore in the way they have been conducted over the last few years. At the 2019 NEET exams, students complained of ambiguous and erroneous questions. The NTA had to release a revised answer key after admitting to some mistakes. At the 2020 JEE Main exams, the NTA faced technical glitches. In 2020, the UGC-NET aspirants found errors in the question papers and answer keys.

The NTA admitted to the mistakes and revised the answer keys. Similar problems were faced at the CUET 2022 exams. There have also been allegations of leaks of questions and answer keys, and incorrect translation of questions from English to regional languages. Students have also faced the issues of last-minute changes in exam centres, delays in the release of admit cards and technical glitches. The harried student community has time and again demanded re-evaluation and re-tests and resorted to legal action. However, they have continued to face problems in these high-stakes exams.

The government needs to urgently step in to ensure proper functioning of the NTA. It needs to undertake a massive upgrade of the NTA’s technological infrastructure and put in place robust security measures to avoid paper leaks. There is also a need for regular stakeholder engagement to identify areas of improvement in order to restore the credibility of the NTA examination system, which affects millions of students. Swift and strict action against those involved in indiscretions and paper leaks should precede the structural upgrade. The Supreme Court has rightly said that even if there is “0.001 percent negligence” on part of the NTA, it should be thoroughly dealt with.

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