The parents of some students who will have to sit the O’ Level Pakistan Studies and Islamiyat papers again have threatened to take legal action against the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) board for its “cruelty and injustice”.
On June 3 - 17 days after the last paper for the two subjects - the board posted an announcement on its website, saying that there had been a security breach and students would have to sit for the exams again on June 13 and June 14.
On Tuesday morning, the parents of Karachi Grammar School (KGS) students met the institution’s administration and drew up a list of points to put forward to the exam board. Only this much was discussed during the meeting. But after emerging from the school, a couple of irate parents even warned that they would take legal action against the board. While talking to The Express Tribune, S*, a concerned parent, said, “They have no right to subjugate us and our children like this. The board’s officials are saying the security breach took place outside Pakistan, so why is it that only students of this country have to sit exams again? Some of us are even willing to take the legal route.”
Z, another KGS student’s mother, said the ordeal had taken a toll on her daughter. “She was crying all evening after finding out her efforts had gone to waste as a result of the board’s mismanagement. In fact, this was pretty much the response of all her friends,” she said. “And now CIE’s officials aren’t even answering the phone! They’ve been very vague about the whole thing. When they say ‘security breach’, what exactly do they mean? Have they lost the answer scripts?”
For its part, British Council, which conducts the board’s examination in Pakistan, said that an investigation into the matter has already been launched and the findings will be shared by Wednesday (today).
Tariq Rashid Quraishi, another parent who attended the meeting, said they want the inquiry to be transparent and clear. The results should be clearly communicated via the media.
“We’ve also asked them to explain why it took 17 days for the board to announce that the students would have to sit the papers again,” he said. “It is also hard for the parents to conceive how four papers scheduled on four different dates could have been leaked.”
Quraishi said that he, along with other parents, have asked the board to mark the answer scripts which the students have already handed in and grade them for it first. “Then the students’ grades for the papers they sat for again should be correlated with the old ones. If there hasn’t been a drastic drop in a student’s letter grade - say from an A* to an A - then he or she should be assigned the higher one.” He said parents are anxious that their children might not be able to do as well as they did in May because of the schedule - all four exams in two days.
Other concerns which parents brought up was the fact that some children are abroad and will have to fly in from their vacations and the fact that some students may have already discarded the notes and the board’s preparation material is insufficient.
St Michael’s school students protest outside KGS
A little over a dozen St Michael’s school students gathered outside KGS’ college campus at Boat Basin to protest against CIE’s decision. Though a Facebook notification about the “peace walk from KGS to St Michael’s school” had been sent out the night before and received a respectable response in the cyber world, not many turned up.
Those who did make it sat on the road outside the school, chanting slogans for justice. F, a girl holding one of the banners, said, “The CIE must realise that we aren’t mentally prepared to take these exams the way we sat for them back in May. They should just mark our previous answer scripts and assign us a grade.” She added that if the board insists that students sit for the papers again, then it should at least consider rescheduling them for even later.
Even one of the parents joined in. “The board’s mismanagement is unprecedented. It should realise that it isn’t just the students but entire households which have been affected,” said Muhammad Shahid Qureshi. “When a student is preparing for the exams at home - he or she is treated like royalty by the rest of the family. Everyone at home is fussing over and rooting for the student. The entire household is the support system and it takes effort to create the right atmosphere at home for students.”
*Names withheld on request
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2013.