Second time around: Students at a loss of words over exam retake

Published: June 4, 2013



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.

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Reader Comments (21)

  • Salman
    Jun 4, 2013 - 1:21AM

    Wonder why parents and students are reacting so voilently? It’s for their own good. If they don’t want to opt for CIE, then why not pursue with local board?


  • Nice
    Jun 4, 2013 - 1:40AM

    I think this will be an opportunity for many to improve on their grades. I am sure many of us would be more than happy to retake exams. Having done my O and A levels, I can say that CIE provides very good service. It only makes sense to make people reappear if the papers got ‘out’. Inconvenient but at least the truth shall persevere.


  • Shamy
    Jun 4, 2013 - 2:18AM

    Mr Jameel Yousuf should be sacked immediately for that statement.


  • Final Solution
    Jun 4, 2013 - 3:00AM

    Hah. Parents making a ‘colonial’ slur against CIE yet want their child to sit for O’levels. Such hypocrisy.


  • Final Solution
    Jun 4, 2013 - 3:13AM

    “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.”

    This shows the value of books as disposable in the eyes of the parent and how instead of feeling shame over him giving off books away as trash this is used as a justification for not conducting exams again?
    I gave my O’levels Islamiyat and Pak Studies paper in 2003 and to this date I still have Farkhanda Noor Mohammad’s Islamiyat for Students Book and Farooq Bajwa’s Historical and Contemporary Look.


  • Randomstranger
    Jun 4, 2013 - 6:34AM

    Poor rich people from KGS and their first world problems. Makes me sad.


  • Taha Shah
    Jun 4, 2013 - 7:19AM

    “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.”
    These kids are lucky they didn’t have to do the International Baccalaureate! Lol at crying about back to back exams.


  • Junaid
    Jun 4, 2013 - 7:57AM

    Who needs tuitions for Islamiyat and Pakistan Studies? And spend 100,000 over 10 months for tuitions for these two subjects? Parents need counseling.


  • UMSyed
    Jun 4, 2013 - 8:46AM

    @Final Solution: he gave the books as charity & not as a trash.
    Btw, I wonder why these students ‘need’ private tutions for Pakistan Studies & Islamiat? Isn’t this an indicator of what kind of students we are getting out of this CIE system in Pakistan. I understand that proponents of this educational system will argue that the local educational system is not delivering. But often you find the products of this local educational system excelling in their educational & professional endeavours.


  • boco
    Jun 4, 2013 - 9:49AM

    @Final Solution:
    Thats swell for you but that particular parent thought it was important to give up relatively expensive books to charity so a less privileged student can learn from it rather than keeping it in their possession and have it collect dust. Honestly, how many times have you cracked open your text books? Books are just stitched collection of printed paper if you are not going to be reading from it and giving someone else a chance to benefit from them is a noble thing to do.


  • Anjum Amin Siddiqui
    Jun 4, 2013 - 9:51AM

    One it is not good to sit in an exam again, sometimes counter productive as mentally student become relaxed. Second some of the comments / reactions can be termed as funny like giving away the books to Edhi. Is there any one interested to know what exactly the reason for this decision.


  • boco
    Jun 4, 2013 - 9:57AM

    Yes that is true, these subjects can easily be self taught especially if you have the past papers and the whole shebang. I never really understood the prevalent private tuition culture in Pakistan; its understandable for kids taking their CIE’s privately or the ones requiring remedial education but why do all in sundry who go to (seemingly) good schools need private tuition? Why is school education not sufficient?


  • sars
    Jun 4, 2013 - 10:32AM

    Isnt it funny (and sad) that the only papers there was a security breach in were islamiyat and pak studies…………


  • XYZW
    Jun 4, 2013 - 10:34AM

    Parents need to cut the crying. They chose CIE themselves, they always have the option of going towards their local board. I know both studies and CIE wins everyday. The difference is cheating happens in every matric exams which lower it’s value, CIE has shown why it’s better by not publishing a grade where students could have had gotten better grades by illegal means and has asked them to sit it again.

    I am pretty happy to sit them again to be honest, I have a chance to improve on my grades now!


  • Hussain Sohail
    Jun 4, 2013 - 12:34PM

    I doubt the Cambridge system after this event

    I request the Cambridge to consider any other alternative to this situation and take off this great pressure and tension . there are so many students who are gone abroad . Some are not in there local residence . Problems are many and 2 days for 4 different paper’s . I myself am not in my city . I have no books and few days are left .

    Student from “The City School kohat”


  • Jun 4, 2013 - 5:30PM

    Are they fooling us what was Islamiyat (English) and Pak studies paper doing in Malaysia or for that matter anywhere else in the world ??
    For Gods sake come up with we can easily digest or the CIE thinks we are all so naive that we will buy any story that they give us .


  • Abdul shafiq
    Jun 4, 2013 - 7:08PM

    Please review and reconsider the decision.


  • student community
    Jun 4, 2013 - 9:15PM

    British council should start selling oranges instead of trying to conduct exams. That way they will cause less agony hopefully.


  • Qaseem Siddiqui
    Jun 4, 2013 - 9:31PM

    Poor rich people ,crazy to get registered their innocent children with such a fad system of British.Its for information to all effectees,that developed countries have got rid of 100 years
    old system & saving money.They are not as wise as our so called Poor Rich People of pakistan.
    Its pity if ,if parents spend Rs 100,000 for Pakistan studies & Islamiyat.
    Ponder upon it for God sake!


  • Haroon
    Jun 5, 2013 - 3:00PM

    Its totally dissappointed , my books are lost and i cant prepare like that which i had done before , i hoped to achieve two A*’s in these exams and now i think i am unable to do so because of no preparation . If papers are leaked in Singapore so retake should be done there only , why in pakistan ???


  • Anti Denialist
    Jun 5, 2013 - 11:41PM

    @Final Solution:
    Which parent in their right mind sells off their course books immediately after giving examination?
    At least wait for the results to come.
    Sounds like a bogus reason.


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