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April 11, 2021

Exams in a pandemic

Editorial

 
April 11, 2021

For several months, a debate has been continuing in the country over the holding of the Cambridge Assessment International Education ‘O’ and ‘A’ level exams in the last week of April. The matter has now been taken to the Sindh High Court by a student, who has asked in her petition why thousands of Cambridge examination students are being subjected to danger at a time when the federal education ministry has ordered the closure of almost all classes of educational institutions in the country till April 28, and will review the decision at that time. She has also pointed out that all board examinations conducted by bodies based within Pakistan have been delayed till late May. In addition, the petition questions why Pakistan did not make a decision to base Cambridge results on school-based assessments as happened in the UK, Oman, UAE and Saudi Arabia rather than external exams, for which students will need to gather at examination centres.

The Sindh High Court has asked the federal education ministry, the Cambridge Assessment International Education and the NCOC to be present for the next hearing of the case. The matter is one that has caused extreme concern to parents across the country, as well as of course to the students themselves. With Covid-19 hitting strongly in its third surge, for the last few days over 100 deaths are being reported each day. The data available through official channels, also shows that younger people are being hit badly by the virus this time around. In the prevailing situation, parents and students maintain it would be unsafe to conduct exams, and would subject their children to danger that could be avoided.

The federal education ministry has reaffirmed again and again that exams will not be delayed and that Cambridge students are prepared to take them from the end of April. The question is one that should have been dealt with before we moved into the very final stages before the exam. If in other countries the exam can be based on assessments carried out by the schoola then there is no reason why this should not be the case in Pakistan as well. On the other hand, some educationists say that assessments carried out by schools will not carry the same weight at universities as physical exams taken by students at examination centres and presented in writing to the Cambridge board for evaluation. The problem is one that needs to be urgently sorted out so that the students are not affected further and are able to sit the exams in a manner that does not cause them any loss in academic terms or in their ability to gain places at universities, both inside and outside the country, at the end of the process.