Most of O, A level students fail to get admission
By Suhaib Zafar (The Nation)
Lahore, Sep 20: Merit is being trampled in the name of, you guessed it right, merit. And at the rough end of the stick are perhaps some of the best and the brightest students of this country - those who have achieved distinctions and high grades after superior quality education and going through an aboveboard system of examination based on actual learning than rote prevalent in our parts.
Instead of stepping up to make our own systems to make it compatible with the world, our Inter-Board Committee of Chairmen has come up with a novel idea to reduce the better lot to below par through a system of equivalence that equates straight A's with only 935 marks of our FSc.
Thousands of A level students face disappointment and feel discouraged as they may be unable to get admission in medical colleges and other professional colleges as many FSc students are now getting more than 1,000 marks leaving no room for them. Also the entry test are based on FSc and they have little time to prepare for them.
Private educational institutions that educate O and A level students for different UK examination boards have deplored the situation and urged the IBCC to review the process of equivalence.
John Gildea, Country Exams Manager and based at the British Council Karachi on Friday said "The British Council and UK award bodies are working closely with IBCC on issues relating to the equivalence of international qualifications." He was optimist that things would improve in the near future.
Representative of UK examination board Edexcel in Pakistan Sohail Zafar said they had meetings with IBCC on the issue and hope for positive change. "There is need to rationalise the process of giving equivalence. In the current scenario where the level of attainment has risen there is need to review the process. We should have a dialogue on the issue and rationalise the process so that there is no heart burning," Zafar was of the view.
Principal LACAS Mrs Ayesha Zaigham condemned the IBCC for cutting the marks of A and O level students. "In all schools only the best students are given the option to study for O and A level exams. Others are asked to appear in Matric exam. They are the cream of the society - the best and the most beautiful minds brimming with ideas. It is great injustice when they fail to get admission in local higher education institutions. They become disappointed and go abroad where they easily get admission. This leads to brain drain in country as most of them never come back as they are flooded with opportunities there," she explained. "Those who go for engineering or medical profession love it and want to excel. When these are discouraged due to our highly flawed system you are destroying their creativity. They work extremely hard to get A's but when they give equivalence cut marks which is not justified.
"The equivalence system is flawed and should be done away with. I am so keen that there should be one system of education. But the government is bent upon creating disparity. Instead of raising their own standards they are taking vendetta on O and A level students. There is no accountability in the country. There is nobody you can turn to. For example if the IBCC does take action in future who is responsible for destroying the careers of thousands of affected students. IBCC is destroying the lives of thousands of brilliant students," Zaigham maintained.
Yasir Butt of the British International School System, Karachi, flayed the IBCC for creating the deplorable situation. "Parents are confused and come to us for advice. There is no justice in the education system. The O and A level students compete with other countries and bring accolades to the country by topping in exams. But when they go for higher education in Pakistan they are told that they qualifications are up to the standard of local boards. Their marks are deducted and doubts are created in their minds about their academic credentials. When they can get admission in top educational institutions of the world with the same credentials why can't they get admissions here? They devalue education that is accepted the world over," Butt said.
Principal of Lahore Grammar School Mrs Amber Tariq said that the process of giving equivalence to foreign qualification as well as that of holding of entry tests for admission to medical and other professional colleges was unfair. "First of all there should be acceptance of foreign education system. If you are cutting down their marks that means you are not accepting it. The marks conversion formula is not fair. This is resulting in the fact that Cambridge students are unable to get admission in medical colleges. The entry test are based on FSc, which is also not fair. They are discouraging the A level students when they are not accepting their marks. It is not only the medical colleges the Kinnaird College too has started to discourage A level students and is catering more to those that have passed local board exams," she said.
Principal American National School Attiya Shah while deploring the IBCC action of restricting the marks of O and A level students it was high time Pakistan started thinking on evolving its own high school standards. "In the first place we should not be relying on other countries for providing quality education. We are sending huge amount of money to UK. That can stay here in Pakistan if we improve our own system. "The Matriculation and FSc should be made more conceptual like the UK boards education. There is need to revamp our own examination system. It is high time we take it out of the mode of basing it on memorisation skills.
"Discouraging the A level students is like destroying our own youth. This should end. Cutting down their marks will not improve the local system," she was of the view. She said it was high time the government seriously thought about the issue as it was affecting thousands of students.
Secretary IBCC Muhammad Ramazan Achakzai said only the IBCC Equivalence Committee could change the rules. "It is not on the IBCC agenda yet. But if there are complaints the Equivalence Committee meets from time to time and could take up the issue. In future it may happen," he said.
While the IBCC has yet to take up the issue and the private educational institutions have yet to evolve a strategy to solve the problem the O and A level students continue to suffer. Many will fail to get admission in medical and other professional colleges. Dr Farhat Yaqub's son studied at Aitchison College. "My son's portrait is displayed in the Corridor of Fame at the college. He won the academic award in grade 10 and 11. He got 9A's in O level and 4 A's in A level. The IBCC gave him equivalence of 925 marks. He appeared in the entry test and secured 884 marks out of 1100. He will not be able to get admission in any medical college in the city. Last year only one A level student could get admission in King Edward Medical University. "The entry test for admission to medical and other professional colleges is from FSc course. O and A level students are at disadvantage. It should be both from O and A level as well as FSc syllabus.
"The parents are disturbed by IBCC policies and its rigid attitude towards Cambridge students. It should do justice. For example the FSc topper from FC College last year got 1060 marks out of 1100 whereas the topper of Cambridge University got only 935 marks.
"We demand separate merit list for A level students or start of quota system for them. We appeal to the government to look into the matter immediately," Dr Yaqub said.
Lahore: When I entered the Crescent College as an A-level student, our Physics teacher revealed the most bitter truth of our academic life in the first orientation class; equivalence. There are three engineering institutions in Pakistan regarded to be tops at present, namely NUST, GIKI and UET Lahore. Of these institutions, NUST and UET, ask for submission of equivalence certificate by IBCC before admissions. And although the pre-requisite for entering NUST is 60% marks in FSc, admission in UET is tougher for A-level students like myself whose score is less than a mere 85%, around 935/1100 (and only for students who achieve straight A grades).
With the rumors that government intends to do away with the Entry Test for engineering universities and colleges, I for one am concerned about the future of A-level students. With the exception of GIKI and LUMS 5SF, which do not demand an equivalence certificate, it would be virtually impossible for an A-level student to get admission in universities such as UET Lahore. The situation is even worse on the medical side. Only Agha Khan Medical University does not demand equivalence certificate (as far as I know). To get admission in KE MU is virtually impossible for an A-level candidate.