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NEET-UG row fallout: Government mulls NTA reforms

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New Delhi: Post-resolution of the National Eligibility-cum-Entrance Test-undergraduate (NEET-UG) controversies, significant reforms are anticipated within the National Testing Agency (NTA). According to govt sources, extensive changes in the agency's operations and exam administration are under consideration, with a high-level committee likely to be established for recommendations..The NEET-UG 2024 results, announced on June 4, faced widespread criticism from students and parents.

Legal challenges were filed against the results, highlighting three main issues: the provision of grace marks to some students, claims of a leaked question paper, and suspected irregularities at specific exam centres. Many have called for an investigation and a retake of the exam.Union education minister Dharmendra Pradhan emphasised on Sunday that the "harshest punishment" would be administered to those found guilty in the NEET UG 2024 "scam", while assuring students and parents that govt is taking the matter seriously.

A senior govt official said: "The matter is currently in the courts. The education ministry and NTA are also examining the details. However, once the issue is resolved based on the investigations and court orders, significant reforms will be initiated in all aspects of conducting these crucial examinations." The official added that the ministry of education is likely to form a committee to recommend the reforms.As of Nov 2023, the NTA registered over 1.23 crore candidates, making it one of the largest exam-conducting bodies globally, second only to China's Gaokao, which registered 1.

29 crore candidates in 2023.For NEET-UG 2024, over 24 lakh candidates registered, while 14.7 lakh registered for the Joint Entrance Examination (Main), and more than 13.4 lakh for the CUET-UG 2024. Besides these major entrance exams for various undergraduate programmes, NTA also conducts other exams such as the National Council of Hotel Management Joint Entrance Exam (12,738 candidates), the Admission Test for Diploma in Sports Coaching (ATDSC) - 2024 of the National Institute of Sports (NIS), the Graduate Aptitude Test - Biotechnology (GAT-B), the Common Management Admission Test, the Graduate Pharmacy Aptitude Test, the All India Sainik School Entrance Exam, and Swayam examinations, among others.

Speaking to TOI, Pradhan said, "Govt will thoroughly review what happened in NEET and take steps to reform both the examinations and NTA. NTA is evolving and not perfect; we need to strengthen it further. We are concerned about the future of lakhs of young students."In addition to three of the most competitive and high-profile entrance exams-NEET-UG and PG, CUET-UG and PG, and JEE (Main)-NTA also conducts the NET for UGC, recruitment exams for the Employees' Provident Fund Organisation, Navodaya Vidyalaya Sangathan, Central Universities and Military Nursing Service, among others.

Govt sources indicate that the planned reforms will include administrative, operational and logistical changes (centres and question papers) and capacity building, among other areas. Subscribe to our newsletter to get latest insights & analysis.