ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood’s announcement of holding Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE) examinations as per schedule sans any delay or cancellation amid an alarming upsurge in coronavirus cases put a question mark on the government’s strategy to deal with the deadly disease.
The situation in Pakistan is fast deteriorating due to the emergence of the virus’s third wave, which is considered more lethal and dangerous and has forced the government to intensify its efforts to ensure compliance of coronavirus SOPs to check the spread of the virus.
However, ironically, the government decided to conduct the CAIE examinations, pleading that Cambridge has decided not to give teacher-assessed grades this year, which triggered a strong reaction from across the country.
Talking to Pakistan Today, Private Schools Network President Mohammad Afzal Babur said that Shafqat had no choice but to take this decision. He criticised the education minister for keeping the private schools closed as if virus spreads through educational institutions, adding that education sector suffered the most in the country under the guise of coronavirus as almost all other sectors are functioning smoothly in the country.
Babur went on to say that unnecessary panic has been created in the country due to the virus and added if the virus can be checked through lockdown, all sectors should be closed for 15 days to deal with the menace once and for all.
He questioned that why only coronavirus is spreading through educational institutes. He said that it seems a well-thought-out plan against the country to destroy its youth.
He further said that as online education system has failed at university level, implementing the system with primary schools located in the far-flung areas of the country would not be successful.
“If we set the criteria of Cambridge board in Pakistan, it would be disastrous for our education as it would create a huge gap, which would not be easy to fill.
Similarly, the students strongly reacted to the decision and demanded the federal minister to revisit the decision as holding examinations in such critical situation would be tantamount to risk their lives.
A student, Hamza, took to Twitter and questioned, “And what about the other countries giving teacher assessed grades? Sir have you totally lost it or what?”
Another student, Hoor Kashif, said, “Cambridge can give teacher-assessed grades to all the other countries and if they cannot give to anyone that is Pakistan. Neither Cambridge nor you [Shafqat Mahmood] care about the health and future of the students in Pakistan.”
Another student said, “Cambridge has not decided that but you [Shafqat Mahmood] have decided that. They gave the option of teacher-assessed grades to the government and all the sensible governments of various countries went for it. Do not trick us into your words and fool us as we are not dumb.”
Earlier, in a series of tweets, the education minister had said the decision was taken in a special meeting of health and education ministers of all the four provinces, Azad Jammu and Kashmir, and Gilgit-Baltistan.
“Those students wishing to take exams in October-November can do so with the fee already paid. The meeting was also informed that Cambridge had decided not to give teacher-assessed grades this year. Therefore those not taking exams will take them in the next cycle [October-November]. The CAIE had assured that Covid-19 standard operating procedures would be strictly followed,” he had said.
It is pertinent to mention that the Lahore High Court had already issued notices to the British Council, CAIE’s Pakistan director and the federal ministry of education on a petition challenging the physical presence of students in O and A levels exams despite the rising cases of Covid-19 in the country.