KARACHI: For 17-year-old Waqar Ali, this summer was all about going to the beach and chilling out at his friend’s house playing video games. He sat his last O’ Level exam in June and had not thought about the results till August 6.
“I was having iftar with my family when my older sister had to ruin it by reminding me that the result would be out in a couple of days,” he said. “I texted my friends, who had spoken to teachers at their schools, and they confirmed my worst fear. They said the result should be out on Monday, August 13.” After biting his nails for a good four hours, Waqar says he sat down with his parents and discussed the POA (plan of action) on where to apply for his A’ Levels. His father came up with a simple solution – 10 As or more and Waqar would apply to Karachi Grammar School, 9As and below and he would apply to The Lyceum School or Nixor College. As a backup, Waqar also kept his options open for Southshore School for A’ Level Studies, Foundation Public School and if all else failed, he is also prepared to sit his A’ Levels privately.
In Gulistan-e-Jauhar, Rumana’s mother has been praying her daughter did well this year. “I am more anxious about my daughter’s result this time around than last year, as her final O’ Level grades will determine which A’ Level school she will go to,” said Nafisa Mehdi. “This, in turn, will play a pivotal role in her further academic and professional life.”
According to Rumana, when you step out of the examination hall, you feel that everything went well. “However, at this stage [right before the results], all you can remember is the mistakes you probably made in the exams.”
While talking to The Express Tribune, the principal of AES School for Girls said that their job was to prepare their students for their examinations. “The rest depends on their hard work and God,” said Mohammad Amin Ahmedani. “I wish all of my students, and others awaiting their O’ Levels results, the very best.”
A’ Level schools, including The Lyceum School, KGS and Nixor College, start their admissions process before the O’ Level exams start. They call in students for interviews and sometimes tests. Many students wait till the results are out and then start the admissions procedure.
A’ Levels or Inter?
For some students and their parents, it becomes quite difficult to decide what to do after the O’ Levels – should they automatically move on to the A’ Levels (grades 12 and 13) or switch to the local education board or Intermediate. The intermediate stream definitely works for students who want to later take up medicine or engineering at public-sector universities such as NED or Dow because they will not have to convert their marks sheets. A’ Level students have to undergo a conversion and it is argued that they lose points in the process. “In general, students who do their intermediate score higher and secure a spot at the public universities,” said Dr Iftikhar Kazim, whose daughter Areeba had to switch to the intermediate after sitting her O’ Levels at The City School.
But Muniza Waseem, who has been associated with The City School for the last 16 years and is the headmistress of the Gulshan-e-Iqbal junior campus, did not agree with this approach. “This trend started to gain momentum a few years ago,” she said. “But parents realised that it was better to continue with the Cambridge International Examination instead.”
At the Happy Home School, more than half of the students continue with the CIE into the A’ Levels, said Farah Imam, the head of the O’ Level campus. But as the school allows them to take a maximum of six subjects, many have to make up for one more by sitting it privately if the A’ Level school of the choice requires a minimum of seven subjects such as KGS. “Here most of the students prefer to apply to KGS but for that they have to sit a few exams as a private candidate,” explained Imam.
Given the number of students across Karachi who wish to do their A’ Levels there is a shortage of schools. In fact, this year, The City School has launched three more A’ Level campuses – DHA, North Nazimabad and PECHS, according to the school’s regional director Nudrat Sajid Khan.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2012.