The government on Thursday granted a No Objection Certificate (NOC) to the British Council to hold "mini exams" for O Level students from July 26 till August 6.
The news about the NOC was announced by Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood in tweet.
"We issued an NOC today to British Council allowing it to hold special O level exams from July 26 to August 6," said the minister along with the document.
Mehmood said that the exams will allow "O level students to start A level or FA/Fsc from September" of this year and ensure that their year is not wasted.
"This kind of exam in July is unprecedented and I am happy that Cambridge is arranging it," the federal minister wrote.
The document that was shared by the minister said that the NOC was issued after a letter was sent by the British Council with the request.
"British Council is fully authorised to conduct mini exams series from 26 July 2021 to 6 August 2021 subject to all approved/notified COVID-19 SOPs," reads the NOC.
A few minutes after the announcement, the minister issued a separate tweet saying that the coronavirus pandemic has "created immense difficulties in all walks of life but, especially in education".
Mehmood assured everyone that he was taking difficult decisions to make sure that the education and learning of students are not affected by the pandemic.
"Every decision has pros and cons but for us, the interest and welfare of students is always paramount," emphasised the education minister.
The O Level exams were scheduled to take place this month but were delayed after a spike in coronavirus cases was seen across the country.
Last month, Shafqat Mehmood had said that O level exams will be held in the October and November cycle and the same will be the case for A and AS level exams.
"Those students who wish to seek admission in Pakistani universities will be able to do so until January as the government will take the universities on board in this regard," the minister said.
He, however, said students of A2 must appear in the examination right now, as deferment would lead to a wasted year.
"In this regard, the government has issued directives that no exam venue will have more than 50 people [to maintain adequate social distancing]."
"Yesterday, we saw that some Cambridge exam centres violated the coronavirus standard operating procedures (SOPs)," he said. "Therefore, from Monday onwards, the government will ensure the deployment of law enforcement agencies outside of the exam centres to ensure compliance with the SOPs."
At the end of the press conference, Shafqat Mehmood stressed that [irrespective of everything] exams are very important for students because they work hard throughout the year.
"All the education ministers unanimously decided that no promotions can be granted without exams, but for the sake of facilitating student [in times of crisis] the exams will be held in the October/ November session or after June/ July [in case of local students]," Mehmood said.
The Cambridge examinations had started on April 26 amid strong calls from the students and their parents to cancel exams considering the worsening COVID-19 situation in the country.
Minister Shafqat Mehmood had said that the permission to hold exams was conditional on strict SOP observance.
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