THIS is with reference to the report ‘Cambridge, board exams postponed amid Covid cases surge’ (April 28). The educational chaos created by the administration and some ‘pressure groups’ has led to the postponement of May-June Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) examinations which had already started in the country.

The whole episode started a few weeks ago with a group of students raising safety concerns owing to the coronavirus even when things were not as bad as they are today.

This small group, which essentially belongs to the privileged class, initially cited Covid as the reason for having the examinations cancelled.

These students launched a ‘movement’ on social media with hundreds of few-days-old Twitter accounts popping up in their favour. A small coterie of students challenged the physical presence of O and A level students and demanded that they be ‘passed’ only on the basis of ‘assessment by teachers’. For this, they even filed petitions in high courts of Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar and Sindh.

The Chief Justice of Islamabad High Court, Justice Athar Minallah, made it clear that the government too could not issue any directive to the CAIE. He rightly said that mere nine petitioners could not represent thousands of students who may want to be physically present at examination centres.

Interestingly, students’ lawyer conceded that Saudi Arabia, Thailand and India had opted for online examinations instead of a physical one. This makes me wonder why on earth these students wanted to be promoted on the basis of ‘assessment by teachers’ when they had the option of taking online examinations.

After eating humble pie at the courts, these students went berserk on social media, posting tampered videos showing people violating Covid-related SOPs in and outside the examination centres. Ironically, these students who had concerns related to Covid surge could be seen holding demonstrations without even a hint of SOPs. This vicious social media campaign was joined by some so-called ‘journalists’, ‘lawyers’, ‘activists’ and ‘celebrities’, who have nothing to do with education. There was even a legislator of the ruling party from Kohat who jupmed onto the bandwagon.

To add insult to injury, the minister concerned buckled under the pressure, and announced that all students would sit the October/November series. This has once again ‘infuriated’ the ‘privileged class’ which just wanted to be promoted to the next tier without having to sit an examination. If that was not the case, the students belonging to this class actually had nothing at stake, for they can survive even without any qualification having been born with a silver spoon in their mouth. They could have waited and taken the test six months later, but, no, they don’t want to.

Another point raised by these students was that they could not study because online classes are no replacement for physical classes. If that was the case, on what basis they wanted to be assessed by their teachers for grades?

They now stand exposed and have been running a campaign, demanding the minister’s resignation and grant of school-assessed grades (SAGs). Ironically, such students had raised hell across the country, holding demonstrations against the grades awarded by CAIE on the basis of ‘assessments by teachers’ last year.

This year’s modus operandi is to have SAGs and, on getting low grades, to create a hue and cry so they may not be held accountable by their parents. It is not Covid, but their wish to get promoted without studying which is the actual reason behind their campaign.

But the real sufferers are the brilliant and meritorious students who have worked harder this year for good grades. Having a lack of understanding of CAIE system and its complexities, the minister has shifted the examinations to the October/November series which is a tougher proposition.

As the A level academic year starts in August, the students are in a quandary because AS students would sit the October/November series. This means either their schools will hold A2 classes and they will prepare for examinations simultaneously, or they will be four months behind the schedule, facing a race against time for 2022 A2 examinations preparation.

The relevant ministry must realise its bloopers and allow O and A level examinations to be held as per the original schedule. Why should the hardworking students suffer at the cost of a few who are least bothered about their future anyway?

Riaz Ahmad
Karachi

(2)

THE National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), in general, and the education ministry, in particular, have goofed up thoroughly in postponing the O/A level examinations, causing mental tension and great trauma to students.

The minister took the decision apparently without having an in-depth knowledge about the examinations procedures and subjects opted at A2 and AS levels. He announced that A level students would now appear in the October/November series without knowing that the English General paper is a part of AS schedule, but some schools offer it in A2 as well.

A2 students had already appeared in the English General paper-I when they received a circular that they would not appear in English General paper-II, which was scheduled on April 28.

This was not possible as papers of AS have to be completed within 13 months.

Realising the blunder, the ministry issued another notice to students around midnight, announcing that the English General paper-II would be held on the morning of April 28 as originally scheduled, but by this time most students had already gone to bed.

Now who will be responsible for the students who missed the paper because of that midnight decision by the government?

Khayyam Durrani
Karachi

(3)

IT is unfortunate that the examinations, including those for A level, have been postponed. It is frustrating for the students who had been studying hard for several months for these examinations.

Students who are never serious in their studies would be celebrating. Most such students belong to the ‘influential class’. The people who were behind this postponement move were not successful when they approached the courts, but they got help from social media where people wanted instant publicity without understanding how the system works.

This is a typical case of decision-making getting influenced by social media. It is ironic because when we visit the markets, we hardly find people bothering to even wear masks, and, in the same world, we postpone critical examinations, although social distancing and all Covid-related SOPs are practised rigorously at the CAIE examination centres.

Ijaz Ahmed
Islamabad

Published in Dawn, May 2nd, 2021

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