The Cambridge International Examination (CIE) is expected to announce details regarding the retake of the Cambridge O Level and Cambridge IGCSE exams for Pakistan Studies and Islamiyat on Wednesday (today).
Students had sat the exams for the two subjects earlier in May. Rumours regarding a possible re-test surfaced on Monday. They were confirmed shortly with an announcement on the CIE’s website the same day.
The CIE, in its statement on June 3, said that students who had sat the Pakistan Studies and Islamiyat examinations would be required to sit them again on June 13 and June 14.
CIE Senior Schools Development Manager Uzma Yousuf said that ‘security’ of the said exams had been compromised. She did not offer any details regarding the nature of the breach but said the investigations were underway. Early reports by the CIE confirmed that the breach had not ocurred in Pakistan, said Yousuf. “The British Council Pakistan was not responsible in any manner,” she said.
The British Council in Pakistan is the only body responsible for conducting CIE tests in the country. The British Council (TBC) Pakistan Communications Director Fasi Zaka said the decision to give fresh exams and investigate the security breach lies with the CIE not with TBC. “The British Council in Pakistan only conducts the tests for CIE,” he said, “We don’t grade them or decide their content.”
Zaka added, “Though investigation is ongoing, there is confirmation that it was not leaked in Pakistan.”
Dozens of students who had sat the CIE exams on May 7, May 9, May 14 and May 15, took to the streets in protest on Tuesday. Nearly 50 students staged a protest demonstration at Lalik Jan Chowk, Defence Housing Authority, to protest against the CIE’s decision to give the exams afresh. The students protested at the chowk for a while before leaving for TBC’s office to register their protest.
They were stopped outside TBC’s building.
“We were told that we could not protest there as we would be blocking the road,” said Ali bin Maqsood, 16, one of the protesters. Maqsood had used social media to reach out to other students, who had also sat the exams, to stage the protest demonstration. “What is the difference now between sitting a CIE exam and a local board one?” asked Maqsood, “The security breach was not our fault.”
Salman Ahsan, another student who sat the exam, called the CIE’s decision unjust. “They should cancel the retest and consider our grades in the exams previously taken,” he says. Ahsan believes that the CIE should identify areas where the security of the papers was ‘breached’ and give re-tests in those areas only.
For students who were planning their vacation, the news came as a shock. “It is unbelievable that the CIE would use such lame excuses,” says Mujeeb Ahmad, 15, a student at Beaconhouse Defence Campus.
Ahmad had planned to leave for a trip to Thailand and Malaysia on June 16. “We have not been officially informed,” he claims, “We found out through the website.” Though frustrated, Ahmad is glad that he had not left the country yet. “How would have they gotten in touch with me had I left for the vacation?” he asked.
The CIE has responded to students’ queries on its website. It said the results for these exams would be announced along with the rest on August 13. Students who do not retake these exams would not receive a grade for the June examinations series but would have the option to retake them in November.
The CIE says the exams must be retaken to ensure their integrity. “We want to ensure that all candidates have a fair outcome,” says Yousuf.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 5th, 2013.