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The Government of India established the National Council of Educational Research and Training (NCERT) in 1961 to bring about qualitative improvement in school education in the country. No sooner was the Council set up than it mounted several programs in this direction. One such program was to identify and nurture talented students.
This program took up the shape of a scheme called the National Science Talent Search Scheme (NSTSS) in the year 1963, which provided for the identification of talented students and awarded them with scholarships. During the first year of the scheme's implementation, it was confined to the Union Territory of Delhi, wherein only ten 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 based on a written examination, a project report, and an 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 during the written examination.
A stipulated number of candidates selected based on these three components were then subjected to a personal interview. The performance of the candidates on these four components was eventually employed for the purpose of awarding the Scholarship. These scholarships were awarded for pursuing education only in basic science up to the doctoral level.
Consequent to the introduction of the 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 country's education system was changing, 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 candidates qualifying for these two tests were subjected to face-to-face Interviews. 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 again escalated to 750 in 1983, with a provision of 70 scholarships,, especially for SC/ST candidates. This arrangement continued until the scheme was decentralized 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 light of this, the scheme was recast in 1985. 4 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 responsible for conducting the first-tier screening examination known as the 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 the secondary level, with a minimum of 10 for 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 questions, was to be attempted by all the candidates. The SAT consisted of 200 questions containing 25 multiple choice questions each on eight subject areas: 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 on the SAT.
A stipulated number of candidates who qualified at the national level examination were called for face-to-face Interviews. The award of scholarships was finally determined on the basis of the candidates’ scores obtained in all 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 750 to 1000 with the provision of reservations for SC and ST candidates based on the national norms of 15 percent and 7 1 2 percent, respectively. Yet another chance in the scheme was brought in 2006.
The scheme was modified by shifting scheme from Class X to Class VIII. The National Talent Search Examination was 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 years 2007 and 2008 in order to allow those who were present 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. The 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.5 From the year 2008 examination, a provision of 3 percent reservation for Physically Challenged (PC) Students has been made. 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. The language Test was qualifying in nature, and the language test scores were not included in deciding the 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 unattempted questions. In 2014-15, the scholarship rates increased from Rs. 500 to the following rates for various stages of education. a) Scholarship of Rs. 1250/- per month for classes XI and XII. b) Scholarship of Rs. 2000/- per month for UG and PG. c) Scholarship for students pursuing a Ph.D. by UGC norms.
In 2015 minimum qualifying marks for SC/ST/PH candidates were increased from 32% to 35%. In 2017 4% reservation to Physical, Challenged Category was implemented for a group of students with benchmark disabilities, of which, one percent each shall be reserved for persons with benchmark disabilities under clauses (a), (b), and (c) and one percent for persons with benchmark disabilities under clauses (d) and (e) namely:
In the year 2018, negative marking was abolished, there was an increase in the time duration of the test and an increase in the number of questions in MAT, and there was a 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 the NCERT website was implemented.
From the year 2018-19 reservations to Other Backward Class (OBC) will be implemented in the NTS scheme. Besides, there will be 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.