The parents of Karachi Grammar School (KGS) students who sat the Pakistan Studies and Islamiyat O’ Level papers last month will meet today and discuss how to respond to the board’s decision to hold exams for the subjects again.
On Monday, the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) had announced that students who sat for the papers in May would have to do so again on June 13 and June 14. Those who do not wish to sit the paper on these dates can do so in the board’s November exam session. CIE cited “a breach of security” as the reason behind the move.
As expected, this has not sink in too well with parents or students, most of whom just had their first tryst with the board’s papers. Some were irked that the board took a decision without issuing a press release or being open about the matter, allowing parents to head to the British High Commission with their queries.
“CIE has behaved in a very colonial manner - it took a decision without considering the inconvenience it would cause to children and their parents,” said Tariq Rashid Quraishi, the father of a KGS student. “Seventeen days have passed since the last exam, my son’s textbooks have already been handed over to the Edhi Foundation. Now I’m going to have to purchase them again.”
Another point of contention for parents is the money they have spent on the preparations. “I spent over Rs100,000 in tuition over 10 months so that my son could sit the exams in May,” said Quraishi. The schools have already drawn up timetables for the next academic year and those who wish to sit the papers in November will have to hire tutors or head over to tuition centres. “Even if we send our children to tuition centres, the class size will be huge because of students of two separate batches - the ones who have yet to appear of the exams and those who already sat for it.”
M*, a student of CAS school, said some of his classmates aren’t even in the country. “One of my friends had booked his plane ticket to fly to the US on June 9. He doesn’t even know what to say...it’s crazy.”
B, who sat the exam as a private candidate, said, “All my friends are furious. We have to take two back-to-back exams over two consecutive days. We’re not robots...this is insane.”
Arif Rasheed, who teaches both subjects at the DA Public School said, “The situation could have been handled by awarding students their ‘expected grades’ - teachers know best about their students’ capabilities.
Administrations of schools react
The administrations of several schools complained they were kept in the dark and weren’t even informed about CIE’s decision till it was made public.
Farah Imam, who heads Happy Home School O’ level campus, felt embarrassed when students contacted the institution. “We didn’t know about the rescheduled exams as the British Council had not bothered to provide any information. Now they’re not even picking up the phone,” she said. “Students’ futures are at stake and this show of callousness establishes that CIE has become a money-making machine.” The principal of Mama Parsi Girl’s High School, Furengeez D Tampal, said that schools should have been taken into confidence. “I feel sorry for my students...it is certainly not fair to them.”
She asked the board to reconsider its decision.
A different opinion
Jameel Yousuf, who heads an association of Cambridge system schools, told The Express Tribune that a number of O’ level students sit the exams again to improve their grades anyway. “I don’t see anything wrong with the CIE asking them to sit for the exams again in order to certify the integrity of its future.”
*Names have been changed to protect students’ identities
Published in The Express Tribune, June 4th, 2013.