The Higher Education Commission (HEC) of Pakistan has abandoned its free of cost testing council for no apparent reason, rendering the varsities students at the mercy of the costly private testing service.
Former HEC chairperson Mukthar Ahmed launched the Education Testing Council (ETC) amid the wide claims in 2017 for graduate and undergraduate entry tests of universities students and for its scholarship programmes.
The ETC was launched for admission in the undergraduate programmes and during the first half of July 2017 for engineering, medical, basic and natural sciences, management sciences and social sciences, arts and humanities.
The tests conducted were conducted in all the major cities of Pakistan in higher education institutions through online registration process with liberty for student and for selection of test centre.
However, after the arrival of the new HEC chairperson, the testing service was hinted to be shut down.
The new HEC Chairperson Tariq Banuri during several discussion sessions with the Executive Director Arshad Ali and other members of the HEC agreed that ETC should be abandoned.
“It is the decision of the chairperson and I cannot say anything,” said Ali while commenting on the issue.
He refused to share the reason for halting the free-of-cost service to the students which was welcomed by the parents and candidates coming from low-income households.
According to sources in HEC, the chairperson is of the view that the HEC should not be conducting tests because it is a monitoring body and such acts would amount to conflict of interest.
Besides, Banuri thinks if there are other avenues and universities can have their own tests then why should HEC have such service(s), revealed the sources.
The troubles for HEC also started when Sindh and Punjab refused to comply with the orders of the HEC for conducting admission tests through its testing council.
Firstly, it was Sindh and then Punjab, which submitted in writing that it would have its own criteria for admissions. The blunt opposition was due to the acrimonious relations among federal provincial higher education commissions.
For now, the HEC has stopped conducting the tests and it is also likely that the final decision will be taken from the first meeting of the governing body of HEC. The 18-member body still incomplete and has not met for the last three years.
A detailed questionnaire about the expenses on the establishment of the ETC was sent to the media section of the HEC but they did not reply in two days.
The National Accountability Bureau (NAB) has already arrested Tahir Khakwani, the deputy director of National Testing Service in July this year. He was fired by NTS a few years ago and was employed for ETC by the HEC as well.
The reason to start the new testing service was the order of Lahore High Court in 2014 in a case of a student and directed HEC to have its own testing body. In that case, it was mandatory for universities to enroll students who have appeared in NTS tests.
The HEC, in the court, had failed to come up with any official notification or memo that would have allowed the commission to let the NTS administer various tests. The NTS has been conducting tests for admission to universities and various HEC scholarships since 2002.