I made a decision recently. What was the decision? I opted to do O Level instead of Matric because I was recommended to do that by my teachers and parents.

I agreed because I feel that my mind is conceptual and I don’t want to just follow the rote system, also called memorisation.

There are major differences between O Level and Matric systems. In the Matric system exams, they deduct marks for writing in your own words. The system is all about copying and pasting things from textbooks and it also discourages students from reading other books to understand the subject or improve one’s knowledge. Students memorise the whole book and during examination, only those students do better who have better memory recall.

I don’t like the Pakistani rote system of education, or in other words, the Matric system which I would actually want to be changed for all students.

Maths, physics and chemistry are subjects where memorisation does not work because they have equations, concepts, etc. which need to be understood rather than just memorised alone. Thus in Metric students just learn things by heart without having full understanding of the topic due to which their knowledge is not very deep or long lasting. They will get confused the moment they are faced with a different type of question about a topic they have only memorised and not understood.

The Matric students often have difficulties in further education when they go to foreign countries. Moreover, many Matric students take their exams in Urdu, therefore such students face many difficulties in their careers because of poor English language skills. The Matric learning method is designed by the local boards at the provincial level in Pakistan, with each province having different things taught from different textbooks.

Therefore, it is helpful to select English as the language of learning while appearing in science subjects, because students have to face a tough time at the higher education level and in jobs.

Besides the above problems, the issue of curriculum needs to be addressed. For example, many western and non-Muslim famous and historical personalities and events should be included as well for better understanding about history.

The life and history of great personalities such as Isaac Newton, Galileo Galilei, Max Planck, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking are not highlighted. Only the laws and theories of some of these famous scientists have been included. The laws and contributions of Isaac Newton, Neil Bhor and Postrate, John Napier, etc. are mentioned without their biographies.

However, important Muslim scientists, like Al-Biruni, Ibn al-Haytham, Al-Farabi, Al-Khwarizmi, Ibn Sina, Dr Abdul Qadeer Khan and Abdus Salam have been mentioned. For students, knowledge about the lives of great inventors and scientists is a good learning experience.

Here are some comments about the O Level system.

My tutor Mr Naseer said, “To select O Level is better because not everyone can memorise all the words by heart.”

My uncle recommended, “O Level is good to study as you can gain more knowledge and it encourages you to read different books.”

Sir Waseem, our vice principal said, “O Level is better than Matric. A bright student can appear in O Level at a younger age, while in Pakistan there is a minimum age limit for appearing Matric exam.

Let us look at another aspect of the Matric system. If you are registered with Peshawar Board, you can only appear in the exam centre assigned to you and cannot choose another one or of another city. On the other hand, in O Level, one can select an examination centre in any city, country or any place where O Level exams are conducted.

O Level is a very advanced system of education and after every three years or so, some of the curriculum changes, according to the requirements and modifications in subjects. This means that O Level has an eye on society and innovation. In addition, you can choose 14 subjects from around 40 subjects worldwide. A student takes eight to nine subjects mostly.

But for a Pakistani student, Urdu, Pakistan studies and Islamiyat are compulsory. Similarly, compulsory subjects for other nations are mathematics, physics, chemistry and English. The curriculum of O Level changes.

But in the Matric system, the curriculum does not change much or that frequently. And it has been noted that some experienced teachers know the exact page number, question number and answer by heart.

Education is all about gaining better understanding of concepts, so think before you make a choice to do Matric or O Level.

My father once remarked, “Life is not a dress rehearsal, it is lived once — so live up to your dreams!”

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 10th, 2019