Taking to Twitter on Thursday, he said that this will facilitate O Level students to start A Level or FA/Fsc from September.
"This kind of exam in July is unprecedented and I am happy that Cambridge is arranging it," he further wrote.
We issued an NOC today to British Council allowing it to hold special O level exams from July 26 to August 6. This will facilitate O level students to start A level or FA/Fsc from September. This kind of exam in July is unprecedented and I am happy that Cambridge is arranging it pic.twitter.com/bYIikHAECD— Shafqat Mahmood (@Shafqat_Mahmood) May 27, 2021
A notification, attached along with the tweet, stated that Covid-19 standard operation procedures (SOPs), similar to those followed during the examinations of A Level, would have to be adhered to.
In another tweet, the education minister said that the Covid-19 pandemic has created immense difficulties in all walks of life but specially in education.
"We have been taking difficult decisions to ensure that education/ learning continues. Every decision has pros and cons but for us the interest/welfare of students is always paramount," he added.
This pandemic has created immense difficulties in all walks of life but specially in education. We have been taking difficult decisions to ensure that education/ learning continues. Every decision has pros and cons but for us the interest/welfare of students is always paramount— Shafqat Mahmood (@Shafqat_Mahmood) May 27, 2021
The Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), in a statement later, confirmed that it will offer some replacement O Level and IGCSE exams to both school and private students in Pakistan at the end of July.
"The decision to run replacement exams for a number of key subjects follows conversations with schools and means students in year 11 will be able to complete their studies in these subjects before they start the next school year," it added.
The CAIE said that the safety of students and staff continues to be highest priority. "These exams will take place in venues where compliance with current health and safety standard operating procedures (SOPs) is possible."
It clarified that the students can still take exams instead in the October/November 2021 series if they prefer, for the same fee as the June 2021 series.
The statement said that the students will only take one question paper per subject and that one question paper will be a multiple-choice paper where it exists for the syllabus. "Multiple choice covers many aspects of the syllabus, and typically lasts 60 minutes."
In order to give students as much time as possible to prepare for the exams, it added. “The Cambridge International is planning for the exams to take place in the last week of July and the first week of August.”
Country Director Cambridge International Pakistan Uzma Yousuf said, “I am very pleased that we have been able to offer these replacement Cambridge O Level and IGCSE exams to Cambridge schools and students in Pakistan.
“Our schools in Pakistan were keen that students could achieve their qualifications in these key subjects before they started their next school year, in order to minimise disruption to their future studies.
“We have chosen a set of subjects that will benefit the majority of students, enabling them to graduate from their Cambridge O Level or IGCSE courses and start preparing for A Level from second week of August. It will also enable most O Level and IGCSE students to fulfil the IBCC requirement for equivalence without having to take the exam in a future series.”
The official statement said that Pakistan Studies, Islamiyat, Urdu 1st Language and Urdu 2nd Language will be available in the October/November 2021 series. "There will be many other AS, A level, O Level and IGCSE subjects also available in that series."
It said that Cambridge AS level students along with O Level and IGCSE students whose subjects are not being offered in July, will be able to take their exams in the October/November 2021 exams series.
The Cambridge International will share the timetable for the replacement O Level and IGCSE exams with schools soon, it further added.
Earlier, the CAIE had cancelled all examinations in the region without an adequate promotion mechanism, a decision which came under criticism as it had put the academic future of thousands of its associated students in jeopardy.
As per the decision, the country’s O Level students had little option but to waste an academic year and reappear in the October/ November session of examinations.
With enrolments surpassing over 50,000 O and A Level students across various educational institutions, Pakistan remains one of the highest revenue-making countries for CAIE— the largest international examination service in the country.
Read more: Board exams to begin after June 20
On Monday, the federal government decided to conduct the board examinations across the country after June 20 “at all costs” with strict implementation of Covid-19 standard operating procedures (SOPs).
Shafqat Mahmood said that there would be no promotions to the next class without the examinations. “Class 9 and 11 exams will take place according to the timetable of the respective boards,” he said in a tweet. “No truth in rumours that they will not be held.”
The decision to hold the exams was taken during the Inter-Provincial Education Ministers Conference (IPEMC), chaired by Mahmood. The meeting was attended by all the provincial education ministers as well as different secretaries via video link.
According to a statement issued after the meeting, it was decided after consultations that no student would be promoted without examinations this year and that examinations would be conducted “at all costs”.
The statement further said that the examinations of grade 10 and 12 would be held in the third week of June. “In case of delay in the results, the universities would open admissions on the basis of provisional certificate,” it added.