To put it crudely, in Urdu, you would say, ab ghadhay ghoray me farq nahi rahega. You won’t be able to tell the difference between the donkeys and the horses. The Sindh government has had to cancel Matric and Intermediate board exams, promote all students and give them an extra 3%.
In Pakistan, the school system works like this. Matriculation is classes 9 and 10. The average you score over exams during these two years determines what kind of college you get into for your Intermediate, class 11 and 12 (called first and second year). The same applies for intermediate. The marks you score in these two years yield an average which will determine your university admission. It is almost like the American GPA system. If you score low in class 9 or class 11, you put a dent in your overall average and have to work extra hard to score higher in the class 10 or class 12 exams to raise your final total average. You can re-sit exams as supplementaries.
Second-year students Ismail and Faiq of Government Degree Boys College in Karachi had been looking forward to re-sitting their failed first-year (class 11) supplementaries to cover up for abysmally low marks and raise their average. They had scored merely 31% and 29% in their first-year board examinations. But now that the supplementaries aren’t happening, they don’t stand a chance.
We were looking to redeem ourselves in April, they told SAMAA Digital. They had been taking private tuitions. Their tutor Mustujab Uddin said he found them diligent and smart and had felt they would have turned things around had they sat the exams.
Sindh Education Minister Saeed Ghani says the decision to suspend exams had been the need of the hour. The province has been working on a steering committee with the federal government to come up with solutions given the lockdown and coronavirus pandemic. These were their decisions:
Students of class 10 will get admission to colleges on the basis of their class 9 Matric board examinations.
Universities will grant admissions to class 12 students on the basis of their class 11 performance. They will, however, tack on an additional 3% marks to that score.
For class 9 and class 11, their exam results next year will determine these class scores. A ninth grader who performs well in the class 10 exams in 2021 will be given good marks for the class 9 exams they never gave. The same will happen for the 11th graders.
Schools and college have been asked to promote students who failed in one or two subjects.
Some arrangements might be made for students willing to sit in exams so that their position can be ascertained.
These decisions have not been welcomed by students who feel that they have been robbed of a chance to improve their scores and aim for a better college or university. Like the two freshmen, Manahil Siddiqui of the BAMM PECHS Government College for Women believes this decision is a huge blow to a second-year student like her. “It seems unfair,” she said. “The students who failed [in first year] will be promoted, but those who scored low marks and were looking to improve themselves the next year will suffer,” she said. This equates failures and high achievers. “In the second year of college, you can increase up to 10% of your percentage,” she argued, referring to the cumulative averages.|
Her stance was seconded by Umaid Hussain, Alizah Ahmed and Abdullah Salman, all 11th graders, who were worried how their performance of one year, instead of the usual two, will be determining their university admissions.
The students understand that physically appearing for exams was not possible since Pakistan has so far reported nearly 40,000 known cases of COVID-19 and the expectation is that the numbers will grow for some time. But they argue that the decision-makers could have considered online tests.
In rare cases, a free pass, or promotion without exams has come as a blessing in disguise. Mania Khan is a 9th grader who has diabetes had not managed well during the year. “I was nervous because this would have been my first time appearing for board exams,” she said. “I wasn’t doing well either as a diabetic patient.”
And of course, the students who have done well already, are extremely happy with the bonus 3% being handed out. Muhammad Abdullah scored 90% in the class 9 exams but will now get an additional 3% for his class 10 result. He’s over the moon as he will be able to choose his college with a whopping 93%.