Centre Seeks States’ Help In Security To Ensure Integrity Of Entrance Exams - Vibes Of India

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Centre Seeks States’ Help In Security To Ensure Integrity Of Entrance Exams

| Updated: July 5, 2024 10:37

In light of the recent paper leaks of various exams, the Centre has asked the states for help in ensuring the integrity of its entrance tests.

Home Secretary Ajay Bhalla held a meeting with all state Chief Secretaries and DGPs last week to seek their assistance in overseeing the conduct of upcoming tests including the All India Ayush Postgraduate Entrance Test (AIAPGET) and the Foreign Medical Graduate Exam (FMGE) on July 6.

The AIAPGET, conducted by the National Testing Agency (NTA) for the Ayush Ministry, is for admissions to MD/MS programmes in Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, and Homeopathy. The FMGE, conducted biannually by the National Board of Examination (NBE) under the Health Ministry, screens overseas medical graduates seeking to practise medicine in India. Just under one lakh candidates appeared for the two tests last year. Both are computer-based exams.

During the meeting, sources said, Bhalla requested the states to help introduce an additional layer of oversight for the exams by appointing one civil and one police observer for each exam centre in their respective states. An observer is charged with the responsibility of ensuring that the exam is fair and free of any malpractices. In addition to this, states were also asked to appoint one state-level nodal officer to coordinate with the exam conducting agency. Currently, there is usually one observer appointed to each test centre by the exam conducting agency. For instance, for AIAPGET, the NTA would normally assign one observer per centre.

However, controversy over the integrity of several centrally conducted entrance tests, including several arrests related to the alleged leak of the NEET-UG paper, has forced the government to review its systems for all entrance tests.

Several high-level meetings have been held for this purpose, over the last two weeks, at the Ministry of Home Affairs, Education Ministry, Cabinet Secretariat and the Prime Minister’s Office and it was decided to have at least three observers at each exam centre instead of one.

“So in addition to the observer appointed by the exam conducting agency, it has been decided that the parent ministry will also have a representative, as will the state concerned. So in the case of AIAPGET, there will be an NTA observer (exam agency), an AYUSH observer (parent ministry), and state observers (civil and police),” said a Chief Secretary who was part of the meeting held in the last week of June.

“The motivation behind the multiple observer decision, sources said, was that oversight from different quarters would neutralise vested interests, if any,” a source said.

A pilot of sorts was done for the All India Entrance Exam for Admission (AIEEA PG) and ICAR-AICE-JRF/SRF that NTA held on June 29 on behalf of the Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) for admission to master’s programme and research programmes, respectively, in accredited agricultural universities. For this exam, ICAR has also deputed its observer for each exam centre in addition to the NTA’s observer. The Home Secretary’s meeting comes in the wake of a spate of controversies and allegations over the integrity of the NEET undergraduate entrance test and the Centre’s decision to cancel the UGC-NET amidst paper leak claims and postpone two others (NEET-PG and CSIR-UGC NET) as a precaution.

Although the Education Ministry acknowledged credible evidence of a paper leak for UGC-NET (which is why it decided to cancel the paper), it has maintained that there was no large-scale leak of the NEET-UG paper and hence has not cancelled it. In fact, NTA has only barred 17 candidates in Bihar for allegedly benefiting from what Education Minister Dharmendra Pradhan called a “localised error” a day before the exam.

However, Pradhan took moral responsibility for the problems faced by the medical entrance candidates, and the Education Ministry subsequently set up a reforms committee to suggest measures to improve NTA’s examination process.

NTA Chief Subodh Kumar Singh, under whose leadership UGC-NET and NEET-UG were held, was moved out of the agency amidst the controversy and put on compulsory wait in the Department of Personnel and Training.

Since then, there have been several high-level meetings chaired by Home Minister Amit Shah, Cabinet Secretary Rajiv Guaba and Principal Secretary to Prime Minister P K Mishra to review the government’s strategy to protect future exams from paper leaks.

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