Tuesday Apr 06, 2021
Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood on Tuesday announced that O and AS/A Level examinations in Pakistan will proceed as announced and there will be "absolutely no change" in the government's decision on the matter.
Exams for AS and A Levels will commence from April 26 (in 20 days), while O Level exams will commence from May 10 according to a revised schedule announced by Cambridge.
He described the decision to proceed with exams as a unanimous and final one and repeatedly underlined that it was not going to change.
Mehmood was addressing parents and students scheduled to sit for the Cambridge International Examinations in a widely watched Tuesday press conference.
Just a little while earlier, he had met the education and health ministers and senior officials from the four provinces and the federation.
"There are only around 85,000 students from all over Pakistan who are sitting for the A, AS and O Level examinations, compared to 4 million students sitting for local board exams," the minister noted.
The minister said that — given the comparatively lower number of students impacted, and the fact that the government has no authority over the Cambridge examinations board — health and education officials from all four provinces and the federation had unanimously decided that there would be no change in the O and AS/A Level exams schedule this year, nor would the exams be cancelled in favour of predicted grades.
"Cambridge has assured that they will ensure full compliance with [coronavirus prevention] SOPs — desks will be placed at a six-metre distance, no crowds will be allowed outside [exam centres]," he said.
The minister argued that the Cambridge exams were more manageable because of the comparatively lower number of students sitting for them: "On most days it is 2,000 children, 5,000 children [sitting for the exams] — barring a few days where there are 10-15,000 children," he explained.
The minister also addressed students complaining that Pakistan was going ahead with examinations while no other country in the region was doing so.
"This is not correct. Apart from Bangladesh — exams are going ahead in India, in Sri Lanka and Nepal, as well as other countries. According to the data shared with us by Cambridge, exams are proceeding as scheduled in 80% of the countries," he said.
"Therefore, I want to clearly tell those students sitting for exams, be well prepared: the exams are going ahead as announced, they will go ahead with the SOPs, they will go ahead according to the date sheet and this decision is not going to be changed. This is a unanimous and final decision," he stressed.
The press conference followed a meeting of the top education and health officials from the provinces over the status of school closures amid a resurgence of the coronavirus epidemic.