New Delhi: The Education Ministry’s panel on exam reforms will engage with parents and students to understand their concerns and challenges regarding the examination process, news agency PTI quoted officials as saying. This initiative comes amid ongoing controversies over alleged irregularities in competitive exams NEET and NET. The seven-member panel, headed by former ISRO chief R. Radhakrishnan, held its first meeting on Monday evening.

“The first priority for us is to elicit from the students and parents in the country their concerns and suggestions. We are going to engage with them as far as possible in person, or through electronic media. And in the next fortnight, we would like to consolidate this,” Radhakrishnan told reporters on Tuesday.

“The next priority for us is to quickly build a robust system for starting the tests. We are also looking at the future, especially to develop in this country a robust system, a tamper-proof system, a system with zero error and a system that will lessen the difficulties and stress for the students with adequate flexibility built into it,” he added.

According to sources present in the meeting, the committee took stock of the current situation and challenges faced by the National Testing Agency (NTA).

“The panel was apprised of the current processes and functioning of the agency. The panel also looked into the statistics provided by the NTA about the multiple exams conducted by it and the number of candidates appearing for each exam,” a source said.

“The panel also looked into which exams are conducted in pen and paper mode and which are conducted as Computer-Based Tests (CBT), and the nuances of both modes,” the source added.

During its meeting, the committee is also believed to have discussed cybersecurity issues and challenges posed by the darknet, where the UGC-NET exam question paper was first leaked forcing the Education Ministry to cancel it the day after it was conducted.

According to ministry officials, the reforms suggested by the panel are likely to be implemented by the next exam cycle.

“It is a mammoth task and has to be done with complete preparation to ensure there are no loopholes but it is also the most important priority of the ministry right now. The panel will submit its report within two months and we will draw an action plan to implement the reforms by the next exam cycle,” an official said on the condition of anonymity.

Amid controversies over alleged irregularities in the medical entrance examination NEET and the PhD entrance NET, the Centre notified a panel on Saturday to ensure the transparent, smooth, and fair conduct of examinations through the NTA.

NEET has come under scrutiny for several irregularities, including alleged leaks, while UGC-NET was cancelled after inputs indicated the exam’s integrity was compromised. Additionally, the CSIR-UGC NET and NEET PG exams were preemptively cancelled.

Also Read: NEET Paper Leak Case: Zilla Parishad School Headmaster Arrested, Teacher Detained

The seven-member panel, led by former ISRO chief R. Radhakrishnan, will make recommendations on reforms in the examination process, improvements in data security protocols, and the structure and functioning of the NTA. The panel also includes former AIIMS Delhi director Randeep Guleria, Central University of Hyderabad Vice-Chancellor B.J. Rao, Professor Emeritus at IIT Madras K. Ramamurthy, People Strong co-founder and Karmayogi Bharat board member Pankaj Bansal, IIT Delhi Dean of Student Affairs Aditya Mittal, and Ministry of Education Joint Secretary Govind Jaiswal.

The committee is also tasked with examining the existing security protocols related to paper setting and other examination processes, and making recommendations to enhance the robustness of the system.

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