In view of the need to have a dedicated institution in India like many advanced countries, the Finance Minister of India – Arun Jaitley – had announced in the Budget session of 2017-2018, that as a part of the reforms the government is planning to undertake, a National Testing Agency (NTA) will be set up in India. In November of 2017, the establishment of the NTA was sanctioned by the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The NTA has been set up as a Society registered under the Indian Societies Registration Act, 1860. It will serve as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions.
The establishment of the NTA will relieve CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) and AICTE (All India Council for Technical Education) of the excess responsibilities of conducting entrance exams. CBSE conducts many examinations currently, including the Central Teacher Eligibility Test (CTET) and National Eligibility Cum Entrance Test (NEET UG), UGC National Eligibility Test for the selection of Junior Research fellows and Lecturers, and the Joint Entrance Examination (JEE).
To begin with, the NTA will organize the entrance examinations which are presently being conducted by CBSE. The entrance examinations like NEET and JEE are expected to be conducted twice a year, in online mode. Since these exams are often conducted right after the Board exams, this step is likely to bring relief to the students who often experience extreme pressure regarding these exams. The NTA will gradually take up the other examinations, as the organization becomes more efficient, and has been fully consolidated. The NTA will be locating its centers at the sub-district and district levels to be easily accessible to rural students. It will also take up hands-on training methods to train students.
The NTA will constitute a chairman (who will also act as the Director General) and a Board of Governors comprising members from user institutions. The NTA will also comprise of 9 verticals, headed by academicians and experts to assist the Director General. As per TOI Report dated 30th March 2018, the government appointed Vineet Joshi as the first Director General of the NTA. A former chairman of CBSE, Joshi has been credited with introducing the CCE (Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation), and the system of optional Boards in class 10th of CBSE. Joshi’s tenure as the Director General of the NTA will last for five years.
The government of India has decided to grant NTA a one-time grant of Rs.25 crore to begin its operations in the first year. Subsequently, it will be self-sustainable fiscally. 40 lakh students appearing in numerous entrance examinations are projected to be benefited by the establishment of the NTA. The NTA is expected to bring in increased consistency and uniform difficulty level for evaluating the aptitude, intellect, and problem-solving abilities of the students.
As to when the NTA will begin functioning, there has not been much clarity on the issue. However, in March 2018, Human Resource Development (HRD) minister Prakash Javadekar gave a statement about the same in the Lok Sabha. Javadekar told the Lower House that the NTA will conduct its first set of examinations from 2019 onward.