KARACHI: The country is struggling to move from a culture of sifarish (recommendation) to a system of merit for the promotion and hiring of employees, but in a cruel twist of irony it is caught in the trap of its own incompetence.
It has been revealed that the written test conducted two months ago for the appointment of school teachers in Sindh, by the Sukkur Institute of Business Administration (IBA) Testing Service, was riddled with mistakes and contained many errors.
Around 94% of the candidates applying for the post of early child teachers (ECT) and junior elementary school teachers (JEST) did not make the 60% cut-off and failed.
In an earlier interview with The Express Tribune, the Sukkur IBA Registrar Zahid had said, “We prepared the paper from sixth, seventh and eighth-grade Math, English and Science textbooks. There were also some IT-related questions.
The high-failure ratio is in no way our fault.” He had remarked that the large number of failed candidates was an indication of the failing standards of education in the province. But the ECT test paper reveals that the questions did not follow the Notified Recruitment Policy or the ECT syllabus.
Furthermore, the keys of both papers included wrong answers to many questions and therefore the candidates who gave right answers in the written test couldn’t pass. In addition to this, at least 26 questions posed in the test were from the past tests of other institutions.
Sindh Education Minister Sardar Ali Shah took notice of the issue and the provincial department of school education has sought a detailed explanation from Sukkur IBA through its subordinate organisation, the Reform Support Unit. However, the irregularities have raised a question mark over the testing services of the varsity.
A source from the Sindh school education department told The Express Tribune that the department investigated complaints of the candidates. It revealed that the test paper for the ECT prepared by Sukkur IBA was vastly different from the Notified Recruitment Policy 2017 and did not follow the syllabus.
According to the Notified Recruitment Policy 2017, the ECT test should have included a section on related subjects according to the ECT’s 2006 curriculum, carrying a weightage of 60%. The other sections include IT skills which carries 10% weightage, understanding of pedagogies which carries 20% and general knowledge that is weighted 10% of the total marks.
In contrast to this, the ECT’s test that was conducted had various subjects like computer studies which carried 10% weightage, general knowledge which carried 10% weightage, English Language which carried 20% weightage, understanding of education which carried 10% weightage, Mathematics which carried 10% weightage and Science which carried 30% weightage. The test also did not follow the ECT’s curriculum 2006.
The answer key uploaded on Sukkur IBA’s Testing Service website include at least five incorrect or uncertain answers to MCQs no. 6, 32, 81, 84 and 98.
These incorrect answers have not been corrected as yet and no explanation has been given by Sukkur IBA despite being notified of the situation by school education department and other institutions.
According to sources, the school education department has also informed Sukkur IBA that the marks awarded to students does not follow the key provided by the institute. The department also provided the proofs in this regard.
Sources further told The Express Tribune that 11 questions that appeared in the test were the same questions given in the test conducted by Sukkur IBA for the appointment of headmasters in 2017. Moreover, 15 other questions were copied from the test for High Court Associate conducted by Sukkur IBA in 2017.
The policy regarding passing marks is also controversial. Sources said that the candidates applying for the 17-grade seats of headmasters were given appointment letters at a cut-off of 48% while the candidates acquiring 59% in the test for 14-grade Junior School Teachers were being failed.
When The Express Tribune approached Sukkur IBA Vice-Chancellor (VC) Nisar Ahmed Siddiqi in this regard, the VC said all the accusations were wrong and that a detailed reply had been submitted to the school education department.
He asked how it was possible that questions of old tests were included in the new test. He said that the school education secretary had asked about these accusations and detailed reply had been submitted to all of their objections.
On the other and, the school education department is considering lowering the passing grade or granting students grace marks using some formula.
A total of 52,797 candidates across Sindh appeared fort the test for 6,437 seats of ECT and JEST. Only 2,249 candidates managed to pass the test.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 24th, 2019.