Unable to compete: NED entry test lays bare Sindh’s education emergency

Published: September 9, 2019
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Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

Representational image. PHOTO: REUTERS

KARACHI: The Sindh government may have kicked up a huge fuss about an education emergency in the province when it came to power, but the real emergency it seems to have missed is the quality of education it is providing.

A recent entry test conducted by one of Pakistan’s top engineering schools has exposed how low the standard of education provided by the provincial government’s education boards really is.

Save for Karachi, no education board from Sindh could manage more than a 37 per cent success rate in the NED University of Engineering and Technology entry test, The Express Tribune has learned. In comparison, students of the federal, Cambridge and Aga Khan boards had a more than 70 per cent success rate in the exam.

Eligibility criteria

To be eligible for admission into NED University, students appearing in the institute’s entry exam must obtain a minimum score of 60 per cent. According to data available with The Express Tribune, a total of 10,387 candidates appeared in the engineering college’s entry test for the upcoming academic year. Of them, 6,668 or roughly 64 per cent managed to clear the exam.

Shockingly, the overall success rate more or less corresponds to the failure rate of most of Sindh’s education boards. For instance, 64 per cent of students from schools under the Hyderabad board failed the NED entry exam – only 376 of the 1,031 students studying under the board could clear the test. Similarly, 66 per cent of students studying under the Sukkur board could not secure a passing grade and only 211 of the 609 candidates who appeared in the exam managed to clear it. The performance of students who studied under the Mirpurkhas and Larkana education boards was equally dismal. Only 277 of the 738 students studying under the Mirpurkhas board who appeared in the NED exam managed to pass it, a roughly 63 per cent failure rate. Likewise, only 268 of the 834 Larkana board students who gave the entry test managed to clear it, giving the board a 68 per cent failure rate.

In contrast to the aforementioned boards, students of the federal board had a roughly 70 per cent success rate in test. Only 66 of the 217 federal board students who appeared in the NED entry exam failed it.

Most successful, however, were students of the Cambridge and Aga Khan boards. Both groups of students displayed a roughly 84 per cent success rate in the entry test. As many as 443 of the 526 Cambridge students who gave the exam managed to clear it. And while Aga Khan board students comprised the smallest group with just 130 students, only 21 of them could not manage to pass the test.

From Sindh, only the Board of Intermediate Education Karachi (BIEK) could muster more than a 70 per cent success rate. Of the 6,218 BIEK students who gave the NED entry test, 4,804 managed to pass, recording a roughly 77 per cent success rate.

Blame game

Speaking to The Express Tribune, Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE) Hyderabad Chairman Dr Muhammad Memon blamed the dismal results on an outdated curriculum. “There are some issues concerning our students who appear in entry tests for various universities,” he admitted. “One of them is that in Sindh, the curriculum of classes 9 to 12 has not been revised since 2002. The federal and Aga Khan boards adopted the 2006 curriculum scheme and their textbooks were revised accordingly.”

When it comes to engineering college admissions, Dr Memon pointed to another gap in the current Sindh curriculum and examination regime. “All Sindh board exams test students on their understanding of concepts. University entrance exams, however, focus more on the application of those concepts,” he said.

The BISE Hyderabad chairman added that he and other Sindh education officials are trying to change the current examination system in the province. “Some Sindh boards have taken some initiative in this regarded, but unfortunately we have not seen any result as of now,” he said.

Meanwhile, NED University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor Dr Tufail Ahmed said that interviews of candidates who have cleared the entry test will begin on September 23. “We will also, for the first time, offer admissions for the computer science department of our newly opened campus in Thar,” he added.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 9th, 2019.

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