KARACHI: At St Joseph’s Convent High School on Thursday morning, the best of them all lacked conviction and the worst were green faced. Sr Zinia Pinto, who retired long ago as principal, was asked by the Cambridge section teaching staff to hand out the O’ Level results. She emerged, frail but excited, from the mysterious recesses of the convent to encounter a sobbing Greek chorus of hysterical young women.
“My, you only know one letter of the alphabet..?” she cryptically quipped to the shivering horde as she handed out the results. Only Sr Zinia could see the humour in that. For the girls, however, they were convinced they were just moments away from a sure and sudden death. If the teachers wouldn’t kill them, their parents would. Sr Zinia’s words played on their worst fear: Surely, they had all scored Us.
But when Sr Zinia said ‘one’ letter of the alphabet, she had meant the letter A, for this year St Joseph’s students have done exceptionally well. At least 10 girls of the class of 31 made straight As in all 10 subjects with some A*s (over 90% marks) as well.
“The worst result was perhaps 3 As,” long-time Literature and Language teacher Faiza Kazi told The Express Tribune. “You should have seen them, they were ‘symbolically’ fainting all over the place until the results were handed out.”
Math, taught by the legendary Aileen Soares, was all As except for one C. (The new class 11 will never hear the end of it). Biology was all As. History too. Literature all As, except maybe for one B.
Cambridge headmistress Naseema Kapadia described the results as “excellent”. “Both the humanities and science students did very well,” she said. “We’re extremely proud of them.” According to her, the girls will mostly be applying to the Karachi Grammar School, The Lyceum and St Patrick’s High School for their A’ Levels.
Happy Home, an O’ Level school, also boasted extraordinary results. Principal Ghazala Nizami said one of their students achieved 100 per cent in Additional Math and nine other students got 9 As and several distinctions. “Our students performed extremely well this year, especially in English Literature, English Language, Computer Studies and Urdu,” she said.
The only dark cloud in their sunny results was their Art grades. “Our students are brilliant but their results did not reflect that,” she said, adding, “But I talked to other principals and they have somewhat the same conditions.” Many of her students get admissions to KGS, St Patrick’s and other schools such as Foundation Public School, Nixor College and The Lyceum for their A’ Levels.
There was similar drama at the Centre for Advanced Studies (CAS). “There were a couple of students who got Cs, who I had expected to do much better,” said 19-year-old teacher Zoya. “But there are always one or two such cases. Overall, I felt the kids were quite happy with the results.”
Aloyscious D’cunha, principal of St Patrick’s High O’ Level section said that he is extremely happy as they have a lot of straight As and some A*s. The school got a 100 per cent passing result in all courses except for two, in which two students failed.
The A’ Level section of the school was just as happy. Dean Angelo Rayer said that many of their students got more than 4 As. Rayer puts KGS as the first choice of those who do well. Other options include DHA, Avicenna, L’ecole and The Lyceum.
Excruciating wait at FPS
O’ Level first-year students at Foundation Public School (FPS) have to hold their breath for their results for another day. “I can’t believe they are making us wait,” said Anum, who is now a class XI student. She has been dying to find out how she did in the Pakistan Studies, Islamiat and Urdu exams. FPS is making the O’ Level first-year students wait as it is first handing out results for the A’ Level and O’ Level final-year students.
A’ Level admissions
Across the city, in Clifton, administration staffer John at The Lyceum was being driven to distraction attesting A’ Level results for nerve-shot students headed for university. The Lyceum A’ Level students have done well. They scored 95 As in General, 27 A*s in Mathematics, 45 A*s in Accounting, 2 A*s in Art, 50 A*s in Economics, 6 A*s in Literature and 4 A*s in Psychology.
Much of the admissions drama was over here as Academic director Scheherazade Ahmad had wisely decided to tackle them in April as she figured the results would be out in Ramazan. Now the only students who were worried were those who had not met their conditional offers.
An estimated 1,600 O’ Level students applied here and between 300 to 400 will be accepted, give or take a few with dropouts. Exceptions are made sometimes for freak results if a student has an otherwise good track record. Good luck on the sifarish front as the steely Mrs Ahmad has withstood the construction mafia, police and political pressure to admit otherwise undeserving students. “A few years ago we were threatened by the brother of a boy with all Us,” she said. Some other school ended up taking him.
Indeed the choices are perhaps limited for good A’ Level schools, otherwise there are plenty of tuition centres and smaller establishments willing to open their doors. Many students who are rejected, either because of their grades or simply because there is no space, have to turn to the colleges.
It is difficult to assess how schools have done across Pakistan until the British Council and CIE provide statistics. CIE country manager Uzma Yousuf said the high achiever’s list will come out in February. She could not divulge any information on the total number of students who sat the exams or the results by school.
Easier to get an A
Ironically, it has been getting easier to do well with the Cambridge international examination system. This is not lost on the experienced teachers and school administrators who have been around for decades. One of them, who did not want to be named, said that the standard had fallen. It is almost as if they are taking our money and leaving us less educated, this person said. The CIE charges Rs2,500 for one exam and most students sit at least eight.
Thousands of children sit the exams each year. Sources said that there has been stiff resistance to the Aga Khan Education Board that is trying to offer an alternative. It’s exam fee is about Rs300.
With the change in the grading system, now an A is for 80 per cent and above and an A* is 90 per cent and above. CAS teacher Zoya thus felt that this explains why there are “a lot more As now”.
This isn’t lost on the students. Lyceum A’ Level student Zaki Jawaid, 17, (3As, 1 B) noted: “The funny thing was that the Physics exam was extremely hard and most of us still got As in it and in Chemistry, which was really easy, we got Bs!” Better luck next time around.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 13th, 2010.