KARACHI: Taking full responsibility for the security lapse that compromised the O’ Level exams this year, the Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) issued a statement regretting the inconvenience caused to the students.
On Monday, the board had announced that the examination materials of its O’ Level and IGCSE Pakistan Studies and Islamiyat papers leaked before the exams could be held in Pakistan so the two exams will be held again on June 13 and June 14. This led to an uproar among the students, most of whom sat their board exams for the first time.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, CIE chief executive Michael O’Sullivan said he “deeply regretted” the inconvenience caused to the candidates, their families and schools. “This serious lapse in security, for which we must accept responsibility, was not the fault of anyone in Pakistan,” he clarified. On the nature of the security breach, all O’Sullivan said was that, “some candidates saw the content of the question papers prior to sitting the examination.”
O’Sullivan termed this an ‘exceptional’ and ‘highly regrettable’ situation. In order to ensure fairness to all candidates and to uphold the credibility of the qualifications they receive, the CIE announced that all candidates for the affected examinations will retake their exams next week, he said. “We take very seriously our duties to ensure that all the examinations which students take are fair, and that all candidates receive a valid result.”
“These additional sittings will of course not be charged for,” he said. For the candidates who are required to reappear in the two exams, O’Sullivan said that the new papers will be of the same difficulty as the original papers and will be aligned to the syllabus in the same way. “Without any additional preparation, candidates can be expected to perform at the same level as in the original examination.”
If any candidate prefers to withdraw from the examination at this stage, a full refund will be provided, he said, adding that those who wish to take the same exams in November this year will also be allowed to do so without any additional charges.
The CIE chief executive also intends to travel to other cities in Pakistan to provide further explanation to the schools.
British Council FAQs
Meanwhile, the British Council Pakistan had also updated what it called a list of questions that were frequently asked by the candidates about the re-examinations. Those candidates, who are out of the country and asked if they can take the exams from another country, will have to give the council some time for a definite answer, said the website. The CIE was ‘investigating’ this and an updates will be provided soon. The council also clarified that the candidates do not need a new statement of entry for the re-sits as the original statement of entry will be valid.
Why were the students of Pakistan held accountable for the breach when it did not even take place in the country? The council refused to share details on the exact nature of the breach, adding that it was still under investigation. “The CIE can confirm that it has definite evidence that some students in Pakistan had seen the contents of the question papers,” it said. “For this reason, we felt there was no option but to schedule new versions of these papers.”
The British Council added that holding the exams earlier was not possible because of the time required to prepare and despatch question papers.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 6th, 2013.