NEET, UGC Exam row: Should NTA be restructured? Here's what experts think of what needs to be done | Competitive Exams - Hindustan Times

NEET, UGC Exam row: Should NTA be restructured? Here's what experts think of what needs to be done

By | Edited by Tisha Jacob, Gaurav Sarma, New Delhi
Jun 24, 2024 04:21 PM IST

Here's what experts think about the ongoing commotion in the educational sphere that is putting the fate of lakhs of students in jeopardy.

The National Testing Agency (NTA) which is entrusted with the conduct of various competitive exams in the country has been facing severe backlash of late. From the alleged paper leak in NEET UG to the cancellation and postponement of exams like UGC NET or CSIR-NET, you name it. The recent events have put the NTA at odds with its objective to conduct crucial examinations in a transparent and error-free manner.

Students stage a protest against the alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG examination results and demand re-examination (File Photo)
Students stage a protest against the alleged irregularities in the NEET-UG examination results and demand re-examination (File Photo)

The questions, therefore, that need to be asked are does the NTA require a restructuring? Or is there a need for stricter reforms to prevent any such untoward event in the future? To know the answers, Hindustan Times spoke to a few field experts who shared their insights on the issue.

Akash Sharma, Director of Admission and Outreach at Noida International University, said, “The cancellation of NEET and NET exams due to paper leaks highlights serious issues, such as insufficient security when handling examination materials, breaches in personnel integrity, and outdated technological safeguards.”

Also read: NEET-UG row: Over 2 dozen students detained during march to Parliament

He pointed out that to address these concerns, the system may implement stricter security protocols, such as encrypted digital distribution of exam papers and real-time monitoring of exam centers. “Improving the vetting and training of examination personnel is critical. Furthermore, using blockchain technology for tamper-proof record-keeping and artificial intelligence to detect anomalies can strengthen the examination process, ensuring integrity and fairness in high-stakes testing,” Sharma added.

Raj Vardhan Dixit, the OSD Chairman of Noida International Institute of Medical Science (NIIMS) College and Hospital said that several reasons have contributed to the rise in cases of paper leaks and exam irregularities. “Some of the challenges include insufficient security measures, lack of accountability, and the presence of corrupt officials who seek personal advantage.” Dixit pointed out.

Also read: NEET, NET Row: Centre's high-level panel on exam reforms to meet today, says report

According to Dixit, the high-stakes aspect of these exams adds pressure, which leads to unethical behavior. “While technological improvements are useful, they have also made it simpler for leaked materials to be distributed. Therefore, tougher security standards must be implemented, monitoring systems must be improved, and a culture of integrity and responsibility should be promoted among all stakeholders,” he added.

Gaurav Tyagi, Founder of Career Xpert, said that the absence of integrity and ethical standards in educational institutions and among students also has a key role in the occurrence of these difficulties. “Addressing this issue will require strengthening security, improving monitoring, and cultivating an honest culture,” he said.

Grace marks: A boon or a bane?

Highlighting the aspects of grace marks, which has emerged as another heated issue in the NEET UG controversy, Tyagi said that grace marks, in general, can help students who have been negatively impacted by external causes beyond their control including poorly designed questions or disturbances during the exam so that students pursuing medical admissions are not unfairly disadvantaged.

He said, “Grace marks act as a safety net, maintaining the integrity of the test process and encouraging impartiality. However, the other side offers a more complex viewpoint. The choice to offer grace marks must be undertaken with caution to avoid unexpected consequences. Excessive leniency in providing grace marks may dilute the competitiveness of the exam, affecting the merit-based selection criteria that are key to NEET.”

Also read: NEET UG Re-test: Out of 1563, 813 candidates appear for re-examination, informs National Testing Agency

Echoing similar views, Raj Vardhan Dixit said, “Grace marks are a difficult issue in academic circles. While grace marks may guarantee fairness by understanding the obstacles that students encounter, its consequences must be carefully studied, especially in the context of the NEET exams, which determine the fate of lakhs of aspiring doctors.”

It may be mentioned here that and a massive outrage had emerged over the “inflation of marks” of 1,563 students who were compensated for the loss of time. Students from at least six centers in states, including Meghalaya, Haryana, Chhattisgarh, Surat, and Chandigarh, had complained about the loss of time during exams.

The NTA had said that it received few representations and court cases from the candidates of NEET (UG) 2024 raising concerns of loss of time during the conduct of the examination on May 5, 2024. “Such cases/representations were considered by the NTA, and the normalization formula, which has been devised and adopted by the Hon'ble Apex Court, vide its judgment dated June 13, 2018, was implemented to address the loss of time faced by the candidates of NEET (UG) 2024,” mentioned NTA in an official statement regarding the decision to award grace marks to few candidates who appeared for NEET UG 2024 examination.

Will restructuring of the NTA offer a solution?

According to Raj Vardhan Dixit, reorganizing the National Testing Agency may actually be advantageous. “This could include increasing transparency, streamlining operations, and adopting sophisticated technology for efficiency. The stakeholder involvement and feedback channels should be reinforced to ensure alignment with healthcare requirements,” he said.

Dixit added, “Training programs for NTA employees can help enhance service delivery and eliminate errors. A collaborative approach between hospitals and the NTA can also promote increased communication and understanding, resulting in better outcomes for both institutions and patients.”

Likewise, Gaurav Tyagi stated that restructuring the NTA can boost its efficiency and credibility. “The restructuring may include increasing transparency in test administration, enforcing tougher anti-cheating procedures, and improving the dispute justice process,” Tyagi said.

He further highlighted that the restructuring should also prioritize the use of sophisticated technology to improve test design and evaluation. Besides, ensuring that employees receive frequent training and upskilling can improve operational efficiency, he said.

“Overall, a well-thought-out restructure can solve current inadequacies and adapt the NTA to changing educational and technological landscapes, providing fair and dependable assessments,” Tyagi concluded.

It may be mentioned here that recently, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare had postponed the NEET PG 2024 scheduled for June 23, citing its reason as a “precautionary measure.” The NEET PG is the latest exam to have been postponed in June.

Earlier, the NTA had postponed the joint CSIR-UGC NET exam due to “unavoidable circumstances and logistical issues.”

The NTA had also previously cancelled the UGC NET 2024 following prima facie indications that the integrity of the exam was compromised.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education has constituted a High-Level Committee of Experts ‘to ensure transparent, smooth and fair conduct of examinations through National Testing Agency (NTA).’ The committee has been tasked to submit its recommendations in two months.

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