Public education : Entry tests come under PA’s microscope

Lawmakers agree that mafia leaking papers must be reined in

Rana Yasif March 07, 2018

LAHORE: Parliamentarians recommended reducing the percentage of weightage afforded to the entry test of MCAT, ECAT to 10%, Matric/equivalent to 20% and Pakistan FSc/HSSC/Intermediate/equivalent to 70%. This was according to a report prepared by a special committee formed on the orders of Speaker Rana Muhammad Iqbal Khan to consider issues related to entry tests.

They also recommended that the government ensure that the entry test of MCAT and ECAT are conducted on two consecutive Sundays which fall within fifteen days of the last theory paper of any eligible intermediate group in Punjab.

Despite the fact that legislators have usually been at loggerheads over different issues in the Punjab Assembly, this was one matter which brought the treasury and opposition benches on the same page. Both were determined to rein in “academic mafias” which were minting money through these entry tests.

Earlier, there was a 70% weightage for MCAT and 30% for ECAT entry tests, while the same was 50% each for Matric and 50% for Intermediate. A three-month timeframe was normally granted to students for preparation of MCAT and ECAT entry tests. However, now the timeframe was recommended to be confined to two consecutive Sundays after the last paper.

PTI’s Mian Muhammad Aslam Iqabal, on a point of order, said poor children cannot afford the education fee. He said it was the duty of parliamentarians to stand with them and said the recommendations of the committee were unanimously agreed upon. He stressed that the matter, therefore, needed to be taken up before the assembly.

He said people would go into a state of shock after reading the minutes of Dr Fatima, a controller at the University of Health Sciences, who revealed billions were earned through leaking the papers of MCAT and ECAT.

Meanwhile, Engineer Qamarul Islam Raja also seconded the stance of Aslam. He added it would be unjust if the recommendations were not taken up in the House. “Putting the committee’s  recommendations aside is tantamount to setting a bad precedent.”

However, the recommendations of the committee, comprising legislators of both the treasury and opposition benches, were likely to be laid down on Wednesday (today). Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) MPA Dr Waseem Akhtar said the matter was extremely sensitive. He claimed to have received information that one paper was being purchased for Rs2.5million and each copy was sold for Rs25,000 to students. The controller Dr Fatima confirmed such practices.

Opposition leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed also seconded the stance of the legislators and demanded the report, unanimously prepared by the committee members, be taken up as parents of the children were awaiting the outcome. “If someone wants to debate over it, they may do so. However, the report will be brought before the house.”

Minister for Human Rights and Minority Affairs Khalil Tahir Sandhu suggested bringing the report by Wednesday. PML-N legislator Azma Zahid Bukhari said she was an affected mother whose daughter suffered mental due to these circumstances. She stressed that the matter concerned all children and should be raised. She also requested that the opposition not to point to the quorum, or lack of it, when the report is taken up.

On Wednesday, House proceedings started at 11:11am, while the scheduled time was 10am. Only one out of eight questions was taken up as Rana Muhammad Afzal, the parliamentary secretary for the home department, was not able to attend the session due to the demise of a close relative.

However, there was some pandemonium during proceedings when opposition leader Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed wanted to get his resolution to be taken out of turn. Rasheed’s resolution was related to the price hike in petroleum products, but the speaker house asserted rules must be followed. The opposition leader asked about the time when, he believed, all rules were violated in the passing of the resolution against NAB.

Chief Whip Rana Muhammad Arshad said the opposition was working on a foreign agenda. Meanwhile, PTI’s Nabila Hakim Ali Khan to the lack of quorum and the bells were rung for five minutes. Proceedings were ultimately adjourned when the government failed to show the required number of MPAs.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 7th, 2018.