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Paper Leak Scandal: Time to Introduce a New Agency to Share CBSE's Burden

The CBSE caters to 1.4 crores, it is spread across 22 countries and holds educational, professional and recruitment exams. “It is burdened but that’s not an excuse for letting us off from what happened. We have managed so far, and will do in future with all fairness,” said an official in CBSE.

Eram Agha | News18.comEramAgha

Updated:March 30, 2018, 9:47 AM IST
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Paper Leak Scandal: Time to Introduce a New Agency to Share CBSE's Burden
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New Delhi: The Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) conducts 32 examinations all through the year for nearly 1.4 crore candidates ranging from school students to professional aspirants. With committees being formed for every kind of examination, the overburdened body has members being part of two or more groups.

Talking about the same to News18, Former NCERT Chairman Krishna Kumar said, “It is unfortunate that CBSE has been saddled with so many entrance exams and tests when its main function is to conduct secondary education examinations. It really is under great pressure.”

The problem has long been noted. In 1986, the New Education Policy mooted the idea of a National Evaluation Organisation. It has been 32 years since but the plan is yet to take off. The Human Resource Development then came up with a National Testing Agency (NTA), a proposal cleared by the cabinet in November 2017.

NTA IN 2019?

In 2017, the Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi approved the formation of the NTA as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing organization to conduct entrance examinations for higher educational institutions. NTA would initially conduct those entrance examinations which are currently being conducted by the CBSE.

Gradually, entrance examinations will be conducted online at least twice a year, thereby giving adequate opportunity to candidates to bring out their best.

According to the sources in HRD ministry, “NTA will have its first exam in 2019, it will start with JEE and NEET. Other examinations will be taken up gradually after NTA is fully geared up.”

The agency is going to be chaired by an eminent educationist appointed by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, the CEO will be the Director-General and his appointment will be taken care of by the Government. There will also be a Board of Governors, comprising members from user institutions. The Director-General will be assisted by 9 verticals headed by academicians and experts.

There will be a one-time grant of Rs 25 crore from the government to start NTA operations in the first year. Thereafter, it will be financially self-sustainable.

Former NCERT Chairman Krishna Kumar, though, is sceptical that the plan will take shape in 2019. “This idea of having another body to share the burden is quite old. They have been talking about it since 1986 but it has not taken shape.”

At the time of announcement, the HRD Minister had tweeted, “Cabinet approves creation of NTA, a single agency to conduct all entrance exams for higher education institutions. With experts on board, it will bring in high reliability, standardized assessing aptitude & conduct of tamper-proof exams. (sic)”

Apart from its core duty of secondary exams, CBSE as of now conducts nine other exams such as CTET, UGC NET, JEE Mains, NEET, JNV admission with lakhs of students appearing in them. “NTA will take off the burden of conducting entrance exams,” tweeted the HRD minister.

BURDENED BUT HIGH STAKES

The CBSE caters to 1.4 crores, it is spread across 22 countries and holds educational, professional and recruitment exams. “It is burdened but that’s not an excuse for letting us off from what happened. We have managed so far, and will do in future with all fairness,” said an official in CBSE.

CBSE is one of the 52 boards in the country along with other national boards like ISC, ICSE and NIOS.

“The burden on CBSE comes with it having higher stakes. It is under the Indian government and holds value in national scenario where we have competitive exams like IIT, NEET. There are other international boards like IGSCE and IB – they are good in education as their curriculum is in-depth while CBSE’s is reductive,” said Ashok Ganguly, the former CBSE chairperson.

REFORMS IN EXAMINATION SYSTEM

Education experts believe that though CBSE is burdened, it is also very opaque, “Because of opacity one can’t peep into its functioning. The whole system is submerged in darkness, and they maintain it in the name of confidentiality,” said Kumar. He lamented that none of the “examination reforms” were implemented.

The National Council for Education Research and Training has still on its page the paper called ‘Examination Reforms’ – prepared by a national focus group that had among its members the chairpersons of several boards, including the CBSE.

These points were elaborated after the National Curriculum Framework, 2005, gave several basic recommendations for reforming the secondary-level exam system. Dr Cyrus Vakil was the head of the group, he was the director of studies at Mahindra United World College of India in Paud, Pune.

Taking this argument forward, Ganguly added, “CBSE pioneered the idea of multiple question papers. There were variations in questions but no variation in difficulty levels. After the announcement of retests, I have a hunch they have disbanded the good old system of multiple papers. By having the multiple sets of papers, the incidents like paper leaks would have had only localised exams.”

He added, “Without much introspection and measuring the pros and cons they seem to have disbanded the good old system.”

HOW AN INTERNATIONAL BOARD HOLDS EXAMS?

The International Baccalaureate board, with its headquarters in Geneva, has a unique system of conducting exams – they have 20 students in one room with just two invigilators. They have an on-screen exam for Class X and every student has an individual login. The paper opens only on the day of the examination on computers.

There are different time zones distributed across that Asia-Pacific Region, America, Middle East, Europe, etc. and students of that region cannot leave the examination hall till the exams of another region are over. This has its own set of challenges.
| Edited by: Aditya Nair
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