The National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) was established by the Government of India in the year 1961 with a view to bringing about qualitative improvement in school education in the country. No sooner the Council was set up than it mounted a number of programs in this direction. One such programs was to identify and nurture the talented students. This program took up the shape of a scheme called National Science Talent Search Scheme (NSTSS) in the year 1963 which provided for the identification of talented students and awarding them with scholarships. During the first year of the implementation of the scheme, it was confined to the Union Territory of Delhi wherein only 10 scholarships were awarded to the Class XI students. In the year 1964 the scheme was extended to all the states and the union territories in the country with 350 scholarships for the students of Class XI. These scholarships were awarded on the basis of a written examination, a project report and interview. The written examination comprised the Science Aptitude Test and an Essay on a given scientific theme. The candidates were to submit the project report at the time of the written examination. A stipulated number of candidates selected on the basis of these three components were then subjected to personal interview. The performance of the candidates on these four components was eventually employed for the purpose of awarding scholarship. These scholarships were awarded for pursuing education only in basic science up to doctoral level. Consequent upon the introduction of 10+2+3 pattern of education, the NSTS scheme also underwent a change in the year 1976. It was no longer confined to only basic sciences but was extended to social sciences, engineering and medicine as well. It was renamed as National Talent Search Scheme (NTSS). Since the education system in the country was undergoing a change, the scheme was made open to the students of Classes X, XI and XII and separate examinations were conducted for each class. The number of scholarships was raised to 500. The selection procedure was also changed. Now the candidates were subjected to two objective type written tests namely the Mental Ability Test (MAT) and the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT). A stipulated number of candidate qualifying these two tests were subjected to face-to-face interview. The final awards were made on the basis of composite scores obtained in the MAT, the SAT and the interview. The number of scholarships was again enhanced from 500 to 550 in the year 1981. These 50 scholarships were exclusively meant for scheduled Castes (SC) and Scheduled Tribes (ST) candidates. The number of scholarships was once again escalated to 750 in the year 1983 with a provision of 70 scholarships especially for SC/ST candidates. This arrangement continued until the scheme was de-centralised in the year 1985. An experience of over two decades of the scheme brought it to the forefront that a large number of scholarships were restricted to certain pockets of the country and many areas remained unrepresentative. In the light of this, the scheme was recast in 1985.
The scheme, which until now was completely centralized, was partially decentralized and was confined to only Class X. Under the new arrangement the selection of candidates for the awards became a two-tier process. The states and the union territories were entrusted with the responsibility of conducting the first tier screening examination known as State Level Talent Search Examination. Each State and Union Territory was to select and recommend a stipulated number (as per state quota) of candidates for the national level examination to be conducted for about 3000 candidates by the NCERT. The number of scholarships, however still continued to be 750 including 70 for SC/ST candidates.
The state and the union territory quota was to be computed proportionately on the basis of the student enrolment at secondary level with a minimum of 10 for a union territory and 25 for a state and a maximum of 500 for either of the two. This quota was to be reviewed every three years.
The states and union territories had complete autonomy to design and conduct their written examinations. However, they were advised to follow the national pattern which comprised MAT and SAT. The MAT, which consisted of 100 multiple choice type questions, was to be attempted by all the candidates. The SAT consisted of 200 questions containing 25 multiple choice type questions each on eight subject areas namely Mathematics, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, History, Geography, Civics and Economics. The candidates could choose any four out of these eight subjects and had to answer a total of 100 questions in the SAT. A stipulated number of candidates who qualified at the national level examination were called for face-to-face interview. The award of scholarships was finally determined on the basis of the candidates’ scores obtained in all the three components namely the MAT, the SAT and the Interview. A crucial modification in the scheme was again made in the year 1995 when the provision of choice in the SAT was abolished and all the subjects were made compulsory. These subjects were Science, Social Science and Mathematics with 40, 40 and 20 questions respectively. In the year 2000, the number of scholarships was raised from Rs 750 to Rs 1000 with the provision of reservation for SC and ST candidates based on the national norms of 15 per cent and 7½ per cent respectively. In the year 2019 the number of scholarship was raised from Rs 1000 to 2000. Yet another change in the scheme brought in 2006. The scheme was modified by shifting the scheme from Class X to Class VIII. The National Talent Search Examination held at the end of Class VIII from the year 2007 onwards. However, the NCERT conducted two more examinations for Class X students in the selection year 2007 and 2008 in order to give an opportunity to those who were presently in Classes X and IX. The class VIII MAT and SAT consisted of 90 questions each. SAT had 35 questions for Social Science, 35 for science and 20 for Mathematics. Quota for a state was computed proportionally on the basis of student enrolment in Classes VII and VIII. The amount of Scholarship has been enhanced to Rs 500/- per month for all the students studying in Class IX onwards (irrespective of the class/course) except for Ph.D., wherein it was paid as per UGC norms. The criterion of parental income for deciding payment of scholarship was discontinued. Book grant was also discontinued.
From the year 2008, examination, a provision of 3 per cent reservation for Physically Challenged (PC) Students has been made. The interview process for selection of awardees under National Talent Search Scheme is being discontinued from the selection year 2011. The candidates will be selected on the basis of merit in the second level written examination of Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and Mental Ability Test (MAT).
Once again in 2013 NTS Exam was shifted to class X and Language Test (English/Hindi) was included as an additional component along with Mental Ability Test and Scholastic Test. Language Test was qualifying in nature and the scores of language test were not included in deciding final merit. In the year 2014 negative marking was introduced for the first time at the stage II national level examination, wherein 1/3 marks were deducted for every wrong answer and no marks were deducted for un-attempted questions.
In the year 2014-15 the rates of scholarships were increased from Rs 500 to the following rates for various stages of education.
a) Scholarship of Rs 1250/- per months for class XI and XII.
b) Scholarship of Rs 2000/- per month for UG and PG.
c) Scholarship for students pursuing Ph.D in accordance with UGC norms.
In 2015 minimum qualifying marks for SC/ST/PH candidates were increased from 32% to 35%. In 2017 4% reservation to Physically Challenged Category was implemented for group of students, with benchmark disabilities of which, one per cent each shall be reserved for persons with benchmark disabilities under clauses (a), (b) and (c) and one per cent for persons with benchmark disabilities under clauses (d) and (e) namely:
a) blindness and low vision; b) deaf and hard of hearing; c) locomotor disability including cerebral palsy, leprosy cured, dwarfism, acid attack victims and muscular dystrophy; d) autism, intellectual disability, specific learning disability and mental illness; e) multiple disabilities from amongst persons under clauses (a) to (d) including deaf- blindness in the posts identified for each disabilities.
In the year 2018 negative marking was abolished, there was increase in time duration of test and increase the number of question in MAT and there was change in reporting time for students at the examination hall from 8 am to 9 am on the day of examination. In the same year initiative for downloading E-Admit Cards from NCERT website was implemented.
From the year 2018-19 reservation to Other Backward Class (OBC) is implemented in the NTS scheme. Besides, There is reservations for OBCs @27% from the year 2019 as per central norms subject to the income limit notified by the Government of India from time to time for determination of the creamy layer for the purpose of OBC Reservation vide its letter No. 15- 19/2014.Sch-4 dated November 2, 2017.
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