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January 31, 2015

Grade 5, 8 exams made optional for private schools


January 31, 2015

THE Class 5th and 8th examinations conducted by the Punjab Examination Commission (PEC) which were once declared compulsory for public and private schools by the School Education Department are now optional for private sector.
This year the two exams will be held during the late February and early March with around 2.2 million candidates appearing in both the exams majority from the public schools, for which these are still mandatory.
Sources in the PEC said around 30 percent of the total students who registered for the exams this time are from the private sector. They added around 1.2 million students had registered for Class 5th exam while the rest for Class 8th exam from across the province. The sources said the number of private candidates would have dropped significantly provided there was no ambiguity regarding the fact these exams were mandatory only for public sector.
The sources, however, added it was most likely that majority of the private students who registered for these exams might not appear since these were no more compulsory like in the past.
Though the two exams were declared mandatory in 2009 many private especially elite private schools did not accept the same and interestingly no action was taken by the Punjab government against schools failing to follow the rule.
Over the years, the PEC exams, held on uniform basis across Punjab, remained controversial in one way or the other because of the poor conduct, including leakage of question papers and mismanagement as well as because of the concerns from the private schools especially vis-à-vis its credibility.
One of the legitimate concerns frequently highlighted by the educationists and academicians is related to the utility of the huge exercise. The PEC was established in 2006 with the sole purpose of assessing the learning achievements of grade-V and grade-VIII students. However, ever since no policy intervention has been seen in the education system of the

province based on the learning outcomes of the students appearing in these examinations.
The PEC examinations are indeed one of the largest exam-related exercises in the world because of the number of candidates appearing in the two exams. Therefore, the conduct of the same is undoubtedly a very difficult job with ample chances of mismanagement, including leakage of the question papers in the absence of strict monitoring and accountability mechanism. However, PEC Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Nasir Iqbal Malik is quite hopeful about improved examination mechanism and benefiting from various trends vis-à-vis student learning achievements.
Nasir Iqbal Malik explained that one of the measures for the upcoming exams was unique question paper for each candidate after every six candidates.
He said this would minimise the chances of leakage of the question papers. He said this year the marking of papers would be done at tehsil/district level.
About explaining the logic behind making the PEC exams optional for private sector, Nasir Iqbal said the private sector would itself opt for these exams once the required level of credibility was achieved as in the case of Boards of Intermediate and Secondary Examination (BISEs).
He added this time 30 to 40 percent of the registered candidates were from the private sector and hopefully this number would increase in the coming years.
PEC chief said for the first time two separate wings related to assessment and research analysis were established which would be doing the much needed task of assessing and evaluating the students learning outcomes for future policy making.
To a question about delay in the exams, Nasir Iqbal said it was primarily because of extended winter vacation in the wake of emerging security situation after the Peshawar school attack.

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