There is always pressure from influential people to enroll their children at Aitchison College, Lahore. This year the college has reformed its admission process. It hopes the changes will help disregard pressure and uphold transparency, principal Agha Ghazanfar says.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Ghazanfar, a retired civil servant and an alumnus of the college, says when he took charge of the office seven months ago the admissions process was plagued with problems. He says there were allegations of admission test leaks, discrepancies in grading and disregard of merit in admission.
He says an investigation carried out with help from military intelligence agencies found that question papers were being sold for up to Rs2million. He says centres were found in Vehari and Gujrat where this illegal activity was taking place.
This year the college has asked multiple people to set tests in each subject, Ghazanfar says. “We had a bunch of question papers per subject. The question paper on which the candidates were tested was prepared by selecting different number of questions from different papers only a night before the exam,” he adds.
To improve grading of papers, he says the responses were divided up question-by-question and distributed randomly among a panel comprising 60 graders (from all subject areas on which candidates were tested). He says this ensured that none of the graders had access to all responses of a candidate.
He says the list of successful candidates was prepared based on total marks obtained. Top 140 were offered admission to the K-2 (entry) grade. He says an interview later held with each of the 140 candidates had no role in the admission decision. “It was meant only to verify their ages,” he says.
Ghazanfar says the admissions process was reviewed and cleared by a team formed by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
The admission tests were held from April 26 to April 30 in English, Urdu, mathematics and critical reasoning. The final list of candidates admitted to the K-2 grade was announced in May.
Ghazanfar says the list, including total marks obtained by each candidate, was uploaded on the institution’s website to ensure transparency. The list shows that of the 486 registered candidates 470 sat the test. Of these, top 140 were admitted to the school.
Ghazanfar says that people try to pressure the administration into enrolling candidates regardless of merit. He says marks obtained by all candidates were uploaded on the website. “No one can now pressure us into enrolling a candidate whose marks fall below the cut-off,” he says.
A policy to prefer candidates with same marks whose next of kin were alumni of the institution was discarded last year after a campaign led by then governor Chaudhry Sarwar, who chaired the board of governors.
Talking to the Tribune on Tuesday, Sarwar said that the campaign had been supported by Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif.
He said the idea that Aitchison was reserved for children of the chiefs was problematic. He said it compromised the transparency of the admission process.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 21st, 2015.