Need of the hour

By Shermeen Zuberi
Fri, 04, 19

There’s the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) Islamabad....


Ziauddin University Examination Board, Sindh, is the latest among the already established boards prevailing in the country in general and in Karachi in particular.

“The Ziauddin University Examination Board Bill, 2018 having been passed by the Provincial Assembly of Sindh on May 24, 2018, and assented to by the Governor of Sindh on June 6, 2018, is hereby published as an Act of the Legislature of Sindh.” - The Ziauddin University Examination Board Act 2018.

There’s the Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (FBISE) Islamabad, which was established under FBISE Act 1975 as an autonomous body of Ministry of Federal Education and Professional Training Division. It is empowered with administrative and financial authority to organise, regulate, develop, and control Intermediate and Secondary education in general and conduct examinations in the institutions affiliated with it. Its jurisdictions include: Islamabad; Federally Administered Northern Areas; all over Pakistan (cantonments and garrisons); and overseas. (

Professor Anwar Ahmed Zai

Additionally, the Aga Khan University Examination Board (AKU-EB) is a Pakistan-based examination and education system established by Aga Khan University in 2003 in accordance with Ordinance CXIV of the Government of Pakistan. With three separate programmes – Middle School Programme (MSP), Secondary School Certificate (SSC), and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) – it is intended to function within both the public and the private spheres of education in Pakistan. One of its missions is to inculcate a culture of higher order thinking in the youth through indigenous educational development and assessment programmes. (

Next, the Board of Secondary Education (BSEK) was established in 1950 with an aim to maintain high standards of education and to organise secondary education examinations in Karachi. (

The Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK) is an examining body responsible for maintaining and controlling the standard of education and other activities, which ensure physical, moral and spiritual development of the college students. (

Yet another board which the universities in Pakistan recognise is Cambridge. The Government of Pakistan’s Inter Board Committee of Chairman (IBCC) provides equivalence with the local education system in order to ensure smooth transition for students who choose to continue their education in Pakistan. The Cambridge O Levels and Cambridge IGCSE qualifications are equated to the local SSC and the Cambridge International A Levels are equated to the HSSC. To qualify for equivalence at HSSC level, IBCC provides a list of the compulsory and elective subjects that must be studied at Cambridge O Levels, Cambridge IGCSE, and Cambridge A Levels. (

Running parallel to these systems are the madarsas operating in Pakistan that have their own education system in addition to Islamic teachings (hifz, nadras, etc).

In an interview with Us, Executive Director Ziauddin Board, Professor Anwar Ahmed Zai, explained why he felt it was the need of the hour to have an educational board in the private sector. According to him, 70 percent of the students currently enrolled in Grade IX and X come from privately-managed educational institutions. They’ll take either Matric or O Levels examinations. If the O Levels students can be evaluated by an independent board (Cambridge International Examinations), why can’t the other students enjoy the same privilege? The pressure created by this huge number of students is so much, it’s impossible to ensure the students are treated fairly. They should be welcoming anybody who’s willing to share this responsibility with them. Especially when the increasing number of students had led to the bifurcation of the original Karachi Board into two entities in 1974: the Secondary Board was to deal with Grades IX and X whereas the Intermediate Board would be handling Grades XI and XII. That was nearly two decades ago. And it’s no secret the population is increasing. It’s 2019; we have 10x more students now. Does it really matter if the new board exists in public sector or the private?

Interestingly, where the rest of the education boards countrywide are allowed to conduct exams for each Grade IX, X, XI, and XII, it’s only in Karachi that one observes two individual boards for Matric and Intermediate. Grades IX and X do not fall in the domain of Inter Board and Grades XI and XII do not fall in the domain of Secondary Board. Addressing this issue, Ziauddin Board – unlike the already established boards of public sector – has been allowed “to cover [both] secondary and higher secondary system of examination and evaluation.”

While the boards created under the act passed by the Sindh provincial assembly are essentially all similar, another difference to be highlighted with Ziauddin Board being the private one in the province is it caters to institutions all over Sindh. The Secondary Board can be affiliated with institutions that are geographically located within the jurisdiction of Karachi.

“We are still in initial stages and, therefore, not in a position to have an entirely new syllabus or curriculum. The ‘apna la rahay hain’ (introducing their own framework) argument is baseless,” he stressed. “But, yes, overtime, we intend to propose suggestions for curriculum development to the respective department. We want to end the rote-learning procedure. It would be ideal if examinations are made more rational, more creativity-based to enhance the learning skills of our students. We have the example of O- and A-Levels, but we are familiar with the hefty fee charged, which a middle-class person cannot afford. Talent alone is not sufficient here; one has to have that kind of financial support.

“It is unfortunate that the 25A article of the 18th Amendment of Constitution stating ‘The State shall provide free and compulsory education to all children of the age of five to sixteen years in such manner as may be determined by law’ is still not implemented. The Ziauddin Board hopes to provide opportunities to everyone.” This includes not just a fair admission policy and transparent evaluation, but ensuring centers are in good conditions, too.

When asked about the criticism they had to face, he replied: “There were some individuals who did not approve a board in private sector merely because they considered it as ‘competition’. That is simply not the case. We’re all for cooperation and assisting all stakeholders.”

According to Prof Zai, who has also served as Chairman of BIEK, the last date of application to submit examination forms for the first batch of Grade IX and Grade XI appearing through Ziauddin Board is April 15.

Despite the fact that so many educational systems are running concurrently in the country, the present literacy rate stands at 58 percent in 2018 as stated by federal education minister in the Senate. It is alarming that despite efforts, thousands of youth are still out of school and deprived of even basic education.