Submitted by Editor on Wed, 2017-02-01 15:30 New Delhi: Finance Minister Arun Jaitley on Wednesday announced setting up of an autonomous National Testing Agency for conducting entrance exams to higher education institutions and said the government will undertake reforms in the UGC. Presenting the Union Budget 2017-18 in the Lok Sabha, Jaitley also assured greater administrative and academic autonomy to educational institutions subject to their performance. "We propose to set up a National Testing Agency as an autonomous and self-sustained premier testing agency to conduct all entrance exams to higher education," Jaitley said. The Minister said the aim was to free the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) and the All India Council for Technical Education (AICTE) from administrative responsibility and allow them to focus more on academics. "In higher education, we will undertake reforms in the UGC (University Grants Commission). Good quality institutions would be enabled to have greater administrative and academic autonomy. Colleges will be identified based on accreditation and ranking, and given autonomous status," he said. He also said an 'Innovation Fund' for Secondary Education will be created to encourage local innovation for ensuring universal access, gender parity and quality improvement. "This will include ICT (information and communication technology) enabled learning transformation. The focus will be on 3,479 educationally backward blocs," said Jaitley. Jaitley also announced widening the access of SWAYAM or the "Study Webs of Active-Learning for Young Aspiring Minds", a web portal by the Ministry of Human Resource Development, where Massive Open On-line Courses (MOOCs) are available. "We propose to leverage information technology and launch SWAYAM platform with at least 350 online courses. This would enable students to virtually attend the courses taught by the best faculty, access high quality reading resources, participate in discussion forums, take tests and earn academic grades. "Access to SWAYAM would be widened by linkage with DTH channels, dedicated to education," he said. Jaitley also proposed introducing a system of measuring annual learning outcome in schools. He said that emphasis will be given on science education and flexibility in curriculum to promote creativity through local innovative content.