Admission to undergraduate courses in all government-funded universities and colleges will soon be through all-India entrance tests, if the draft National Education Policy is approved. Private institutes will also be strongly encouraged to make use of the common admission tests, which will be available from 2020. Both aptitude and subject knowledge-based tests will be offered.
The system seems to have some similarities to the SAT, a standardised aptitude test widely used for admissions to colleges and universities in the United States. The SAT, however, is used as a criterion alongside school grades.
In India, the common entrance test has largely been the domain of aspirants to professional or post-graduate courses, but that is already changing. The new National Testing Agency (NTA) has already conducted premier professional entrance tests — JEE, NEET, and CMAT — this year. Later this month, the NTA will also conduct admission tests for applicants to more than 170 Delhi University (DU) courses, including 12 undergraduate programmes.
These DU students could well be the pioneers of a new era in undergraduate admission if the draft Policy is implemented.
“Admission to all undergraduate programmes of public HEIs [or Higher Education Institutions] will be through a process of assessment through the NTA,” says the draft Policy. This seems to indicate that the NTA assessment will replace Class 12 marks as the criteria for admission to these government funded institutions. “This will help to eliminate the intensity, stressfulness, and wasted time of the Grade 12 examination season faced by students every year as well as by so many higher educational institutions and employers,” it adds.
The NTA testing system will offer flexibility. “[From] 2020 onwards, [the NTA] will administer aptitude tests and tests in specific subjects that can be taken on multiple occasions during the year in order to reduce the intense and unnecessary pressures of the university entrance examinations system,” adds the draft Policy. “The NTA tests will aim to assess essential concepts, knowledge, and higher order skills from the national common curriculum as per the NCF in each subject, for the purpose of aiding colleges and universities in their admissions decisions.”
Private institutions can set their own criteria, but “most educational institutions and many employers will be encouraged to use these NTA tests”, according to the draft Policy.
The draft projects that the NTA will establish test centres across the country, offering tests in multiple languages. The preferred mode of testing will be computer-based, though it is unclear if this means multiple choice tests only. Ultimately, NTA tests should be credible for admission not only to universities and colleges across India, but other countries as well. The NTA’s vast assessment database could also be used for research and policy making, adds the draft Policy.