Top universities in the city are rejecting even high achievers of the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK). And they feel they have good reason to do so too.
At the Institute of Business Administration (IBA), a top-notch business school of the country, 3,200 students sat the admission test this year. Only 300 managed to pass and 80 percent of them were students who had done their A-Level.
Many of the rejected candidates were students who had scored high in their intermediate exams but didn’t make the cut. “This disparity was not seen in students from the Aga Khan University Examination Board,” says the IBA director, Dr Ishrat Husain. “Those who had scored well in their school exams did well in the IBA’s aptitude test too.”
“Good school education translates into good university education and thus rewarding job prospects,” said Husain. “Unfortunately, due to the falling standards of the public education board, quality higher education is only available to parents who are already affluent.”
The IBA boasts if a candidate clears the aptitude test and interview – the prerequisites for admission – he will not be rejected even if he does not have the means to pay the tuition fee. The problem remains, however, that candidates from the intermediate board rarely pass the entrance test.
A similar trend has been witnessed at the Karachi University, which for the first time introduced admission tests for 14 highly ranked departments at the varsity. Only 37 percent students of the 10,300 candidates managed to pass the entrance test. Many of the rejected students had received an A or A-1 grade in their intermediate exams.
“The idea to introduce admission tests was made by the chairpersons of the respective departments as they felt that results of the local education boards were not credible,” said Khalid Iraqi, the admissions director of Karachi University.
Similar complaints from parents were received this year when the prestigious NED University held its admission tests. Parents complained that students who had scored well in their intermediate examinations flunked the admission tests. Enraged parents even protested outside the Karachi Press Club, though after a while, the uproar died out.
Some parents claimed the entrance tests included “out of syllabus” topics and only O- and A-Level students had studied those topics.
All this occurs while officials of the BIEK maintain they are striving to improve the education standards. “Most candidates of Karachi board manage to get admission to top universities of the city. It is the candidates of other boards mostly of rural Sindh who are refused admissions,” claimed Imran Chishti, the BIEK examinations controller.
As parents lose faith in the local examination board, even middle class parents are opting for private boards, including the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE), Edexcel, International Baccalaureates and the recently introduced Aga Khan University Examination Board.
An estimate suggests that Pakistani students spend more than Rs720 million in exam fees for one session of the CIE; an exorbitant amount considering how poor Pakistan is. But opting for private education is not a solution for education woes of the country. Haris Gazdar, a researcher at the Collective for Social Science Research, says it is important for the elite of the society to be interested in public good.
“If the solution to frequent power outages is a generator, the solution to deteriorating law and order is a private security guard and the solution to poor public education is expensive private education, things will never improve,” he said. “Every time a middle-class parent opts for private schooling, the public school in the neighbourhood suffers.”
Good school education translates into good university education and thus rewarding job prospects
IBA director Dr Ishrat Husain
It is the candidates of other boards mostly from rural Sindh who are refused admissions to top universities
BIEK examinations controller Imran Chishti