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Kerala Kaumudi Online
Sunday, 14 July 2024 6.58 AM IST

Examination integrity under scrutiny: NEET and UGC NET allegations prompt government action

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Although the general perception is that the conduct of examinations at any level of education should be extremely honest and transparent, doubts and objections related to examinations are not new. However, cases of malpractices, question paper leaks, and allegations of improper evaluation are not so common in higher examinations conducted at the all-India level, such as the NEET exam for medical admissions and the UGC NET exam for teacher recruitment. Following allegations of mass awarding of first rank and full marks to those who took the NEET exam at some special centers, and subsequent re-examination at those centers following the intervention of the Supreme Court, the central government canceled the UGC NET examination held yesterday due to suspected irregularities in the conduct of higher examinations in the country, casting a shadow of doubt.

This past Tuesday, the Supreme Court considered a petition alleging that the NEET question paper was leaked and that the examination was rigged. The Court suggested that even if there is a 0.001 percent error in the conduct of the examination, the UGC NET examination should be approached with utmost seriousness. Less than twenty-four hours later, the Union Ministry of Education canceled the examination and handed over the investigation to the CBI due to suspicions that the question papers had been leaked. The objections raised about the UGC NET examination are questioning the very existence of the National Testing Agency (NTA), which is already under scrutiny due to the objections about the NEET examination, adding momentum to the suspicion that there may be significant issues within the organization.

In any case, the NTA came out with strange justifications when the NEET allegations were raised, and it was appropriate that the government directly intervened and canceled the exam even before the NTA could provide any explanation regarding the NET exam. Exact information about the irregularities that led to the cancellation of the NET exam is yet to emerge. Meanwhile, the agency had to cancel the National Common Entrance Test conducted by the NTA itself for the four-year B.Ed program on June 12 due to technical problems. On that day, 29,000 students appeared for the exam, which was subsequently canceled. Considering all these conundrums, doubts are raised about NTA's ability to conduct mass examinations involving tens of thousands or even lakhs of students nationally in an efficient and grievance-free manner.

The Indian Cyber Crime Coordination Centre (I4C), which works under the Ministry of Home Affairs to deal with cyber cases related to various departments in the country, informed the central government about the irregularities in the NET exam. While the rise in cybercrime in the country is alarming in general, cybercrime in the conduct of higher level examinations is particularly serious. Uncompromising steps should be taken to address these frauds, which cast doubt on the reliability of the country's examinations and even the authenticity and value of the higher degree certificates issued by our universities. Such issues should be seen as crimes that affect national security.

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