Students protest CAIE’s ‘discriminatory’ downgrading of O, A level results

Published August 14, 2020
Students protest against CAIE’s ‘discriminatory’ downgrading of O, A level results at D-Chowk on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim
Students protest against CAIE’s ‘discriminatory’ downgrading of O, A level results at D-Chowk on Thursday. — Photo by Mohammad Asim

ISLAMABAD: Hundreds of students and their families protested outside the National Press Club against the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) examination results that were announced on Thursday. Later they marched towards D-Chowk.

The students criticised the way the CAIE marked them, calling it unjustified and urging the Pakistani government to take up the matter with the British government. CAIE O and A level examinations were not held this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, because of which students were given their results on the basis of their expected grades.

Minister for Federal Education Shafqat Mahmood said on Twitter that he has taken up the matter with CAIE.

“I have received many complaints about unfair grading and have conveyed to Cambridge the concern of students. I am hopeful that CAIE will look into it and take remedial measures,” he said.

The protesting students alleged that they have been discriminated against compared to students from England and Scotland. They said that Scotland has succumbed to the public outcry over downgraded qualifications and reviewed the results while in England the government has made a statement permitting students to choose between the awarded qualification, their mock result or a free retake.

Minister says matter has been taken up with Cambridge, hopeful for remedial measures

They said that while the situation is not ideal, the exam boards and the United Kingdom government has given concessions to students to try and reach the best possible solution.

However, international students from some 160 countries - many from Africa and South Asia - have been treated differently. The students said international schools had submitted expected grades, but in some cases students with A* expected grades received F grades from CAIE.

The students said that international students were not given the same level of consideration by the CAIE and these students do not have the right to an individual appeal.

According to Hamid Khan, the father of a protesting student, the CAIE issued a statement on the social networking platform Facebook detailing how their marking system works and have, so far, ignored students’ objections.

“These students have no voice, which makes it easy for the CAIE to carry on with ‘business as usual’ without acknowledging the unfair and biased treatment for which many thousands of kids will suffer the consequences for the rest of their lives,” he said.

He added that there is also the concern that in downgrading exam results for international students, the CAIE may be behaving in an opportunistic manner, knowing full well that many students will have to resit very expensive exams that students and their families will have to pay for.

“We suspect the income from this alone will amount to a great many millions of pounds of additional profit for them. Complaining to the CAIE only returns a standard ‘no interest’ reply and they would not give any meaningful thought to complaints. Cambridge is a private entity and a business partner of private schools working on commercial terms,” Mr Khan said.

The protesting students asked that Prime Minister Imran Khan take up the matter with the British government, saying that the CAIE must be forced to treat them with equal consideration or cancel the CAIE assessment for Pakistani students.

The matter was also taken up in a National Assembly standing committee meeting, during which a group of parents said that Cambridge and all other foreign assessment boards should be registered with the Ministry of Federal Education and governed by a framework that looks after the interests of Pakistani students.

They also demanded that schools be made to share the predicted grades they sent to Cambridge with parents and teachers.

“Our children work hard all year, and faced with unprecedented circumstances owing to Covid-19, they had no option but to accept grades based on their expected results. Such glaring discrepancies put their college admissions and by virtue, their futures, at great risk,” PPP Chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said in a statement issued on Thursday.

He urged the government to pay attention to the issue and to take it up with the examination board as soon as possible, saying: “We cannot afford a delay where the future of our nation’s youth is concerned.”

Published in Dawn, August 14th, 2020

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