Swotting or strategising?: Why private is just as good as public when it comes to intermediate exams

All of this year’s top scorers in commerce were students from private schools.

Samia Saleem August 03, 2011


For intermediate students, the formula to success is simple: questions are repeated every alternate year.

If a question comes up in the 2003 annual paper, it will not come again in 2004 but will definitely be there in 2005. If the examiners are in a particularly evil mood, they will repeat a complicated question for two consecutive years. If not, it will definitely show up a year later, word-for-word.

Follow these simple rules and you can score an 87% to 99% in your intermediate exams, even in theory papers, a feat that is virtually impossible for an A’ level student.

“The questions asked are all from the book, so if you have practiced or learned from the book then you will definitely pass,” said DHA College for Women’s Sundus Sabir who claims coming third in the 2010 pre-medical exam was a piece of cake.

Questions in the intermediate exams do not work towards challenging the students’ analytical skills. For example, a question in the chemistry exam reads ‘What are primary, secondary and tertiary alcohols? How can they be obtained using Grignard reagents?’ - A classic textbook question. This is leading to the emergence of a new trend in which a lot of private colleges are coming up to par with public colleges.

For instance, a private college bagged all of last year’s commerce faculty positions while a student from Bahria College Karsaz came third in pre-engineering.

While government colleges as PECHS Government Girls College, St Lawrence, Adamjee, DJ Science College are ranked among the top public colleges according to their results, there are a lot of private colleges like NCR-CET Intermediate College, Commecs Institute of Business and Emerging Sciences, Bahria College, Karachi, Tabani’s School of Accountancy, that are rapidly emerging as institutions that have perfected the intermediate system in the city.

The principal of one such college told The Express Tribune, on the condition of anonymity, that for a syllabus that has been around for decades, all the students need is the right atmosphere. “We strictly forbid political affiliation, have strict rules about attendance, discourage private tuitions and conduct regular tests and examinations with extra classes for weaker students,” was his secret to success.

Students from private colleges take pride in the fact that, while government colleges receive the cream of graduates by swooping up the best ones based on merit, private colleges groom average students into high achievers.

Sundus smugly explained that she managed to come third without taking tuitions for a single subject while students from government colleges go to private tutors. She said that was all down to “good interactive teachers, small classes, and strictness”. Though the course is harder than that of the Cambridge system, everything, down to the multiple choice questions, come from the textbook so it’s easy to score, she explained.

Yousuf Sheikh, the best in Commerce, attended NCR-CET Intermediate College last year. He felt there was a jarring difference in priorities and concerns between public and private students. “While I used to fret about my attendance and tests, they used to worry about the political wars on campus and the resulting shutdowns and class boycotts on working days.”

The teachers, meanwhile, have their own explanation for the deteriorating standard of education at government colleges. Sindh Professors and Lecturers Association (SPLA), Karachi, General Secretary Iftekhar Muhammad Azami, told The Express Tribune that a shortage of teachers was a pressing issue.

He revealed that only 5% of the teachers appointed by the Sindh government are for colleges.

While he did now know the actual number, he said that there are about 10,300 members of the SPLA of which only 4,500 are employed while the rest are retired or unemployed.

Most of the students believed that their performance depends on the teachers and the atmosphere at the college. So, if those two factors are controlled, any student can easily score an A grade in the examinations.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 4th, 2011.

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