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February 25, 2015

Primary English paper postponed


February 25, 2015

AROUND 1.2 million innocent students and their families had to face troubles across the province on Tuesday when the Punjab Examination Commission (PEC) abruptly postponed Class-5 English paper.
The paper was scheduled to start at 11:00am and as per the PEC directions, the candidates were supposed to be at the exam centres at around 10:30am. However, it was around 10:00am when the School Education Department (SED) Punjab started sending text messages to its officers in districts informing them about the postponement of the paper. This was followed by messages to exam staff by these officials. The abrupt announcement took thousands of children and their parents totally by surprise who had reached the exam centres.
The innocent students were quite confused when told to leave the exam centres while at many places parents/ family members of the candidates indulged in arguments with the exam staff while strongly criticising the PEC authorities for creating the mess. Similarly, outside many schools of the provincial metropolis, the students and their family members staged demonstrations and condemned those responsible for the mismanagement.
Sources in the PEC and School Education Department said the ‘efficient’ staff of PEC, drawing handsome salaries and enjoying other perks, had not got printed the question papers in time. Since the question papers could not reach all the districts in time, there was no option but to postpone the same ‘in the larger interest of the students’.
The sources said the PEC had involved only one publisher for printing of the question papers and owing to the gigantic task of printing millions of question papers it was quite hard for the publisher to complete the task. Unlike the past, this time the PEC had announced to have a unique question paper for each candidate after every six candidates in order to control leakage of the question papers.
The sources said the papers could not reach at least 17

districts across Punjab; however, a PEC official claimed the papers could not reach only four districts, including Mandi Bahauddin, Gujrat, Muzaffargarh and Bahawalnagar. However, the sources privy to the developments said districts like Narowal, DG Khan, Rajanpur, Bahawalpur and many other districts could not receive the question papers either.
It is pertinent to mention here that the Class-5 examination had started on February 21 across the province for which over 1.2 million students had registered, primarily from the public sector schools. There had been reports of mismanagement in the ongoing examination especially related to shortage of question papers, examination staff and exam centres situated at faraway places. Different teachers associations especially Punjab Teachers Union (PTU) has been raising concerns over the PEC exams but to no avail.
On Tuesday, the PTU leadership came hard upon the PEC management and termed its examination ‘a total failure’. The PTU office-bearers observed that the Class-5 and Class-8 examinations cost hundreds of millions of rupees to the government kitty but no action had ever been taken against those responsible for mismanagement and mess in the conduct of these exams. They said no such examination was held anywhere in the world and also expressed fear that thousands of students might discontinue their studies because of such policies of the government.
It is also important to mention here ever since its inception during the PML-Q government in 2006, the PEC exams proved 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 this huge exercise, held on uniform basis across the province. The Commission was established with the sole purpose of assessing the learning achievements of Class-5 and Class-8 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.
It is therefore there is prevailing perception among the schoolteachers that the government is wasting huge money on the PEC for this ‘useless’ exercise. The teachers also believe that bureaucracy is protecting this ‘failed’ organisation as it is headed by one of its officers who is drawing handsome pay package of around Rs300,000 per month.
There was no official word as to what caused the cancellation of the paper till filing of this report but the paper has now been rescheduled for Wednesday (today). Similarly the paper of Urdu will now be held on February 26 (at 2:00pm) while Islamiat/Ethics paper (for non-Muslims) will be held on March 3 (at 2:00pm). It is important to mention here that as per the revised date sheet, Class-8 examination will start with the paper of Science on Feb 28 instead of Feb 27. The paper will start at 2:00pm.
The News could not reach PEC Chief Executive Officer Nasir Iqbal Malik, despite repeated attempts on his cell phone. A text message was also left but he did not bother to contact.
Talking to The News, Punjab Education Minister Rana Mashhood Ahmad claimed the question papers were ready but these could not be delivered to five districts. He said initially it was decided to postpone the exam in these five districts but in order to ensure transparency in the conduct of exam later the decision was taken to postpone the same across the province.
Rana Mashhood also said a high-level committee would probe into the matter and those responsible would not be able to escape and stern action would be taken against them. The minister said he would himself visit exam centres along with media to examine arrangements for the conduct of exam today (Wednesday).

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