Testing times for education
HIGHER Education is phenomenal for a developing society and a country in terms of technical and financial terms.
Quality graduates are the intended outcomes of the whole higher education academic and research cycle.
Pakistan is investing less than two per cent of its GDP in this sector. Countries have invested decades in finances and capacity building to achieve a leading position in innovation and entrepreneurship.
Communication infrastructure in the shape of road networks is vital for movement of goods and for carrying out business activities efficiently.
The network of HEIs equipped with laboratories and libraries is essential for producing quality graduates to meet the local and international demand for quality human resources.
The university education starts at mostly the 13th year of education, which is level 5 qualification in the National Qualification Framework.
Entry to any University is only possible if one qualifies for the entry test and other institutional requirements.
The entry tests were introduced to measure students’ potential to carry out relevant academic activities in the years to come.
It all started in 1998 when the government decided to conduct admission tests for professional programs.
It is observed that the people who deserve to be in universities were mostly out of the system due to favouritism and manipulation in the results of Board Examinations.
Although, it all started with an aim to provide fair opportunity to all groups in society to have fair competition for limited public sector seats in various domains.
It was expected that reforms in the Board System would be introduced by introducing Information Communication Technology-based systems and qualified human resources for conducting examinations professionally.
Surprisingly, we have Examination Boards at the division level in all provinces in Pakistan, but all have different schedules and standards for conducting the examination.
Standardization in terms of Syllabus and instruments is the need of the hour. Alignment of College’s and School academic content with that is another major challenge.
In the whole secondary and post-secondary education cycle, students are the victim of various checks and balances introduced at School, College, Board, or university.
When the student is at school, there is no need for an identification slip or card with a photo to appear in the exam.
As soon as students reach class 8 or 9, the Board conducts an exam. Their humiliation starts when they are given an admission slip for the center, issued for identification, as final exams are conducted at a different school.
On examination day, student harassment starts from the gate to the classroom. First, they are asked to provide valid proof that they are genuine students and invigilator stars like they are accused.
Eyes, nose and ears, along with eyebrows, are matched. Even for slight difference, they are asked to promptly reply to questions like sharing their date of birth, father’s name, etc.
After successful identification, they are searched for mobile, smart watches, and other gadgets by a person who continuously shouts and warns that the paper will be cancelled if they do not comply with the instructions.
After successfully entering the examination centre, they will search for the examination room in the list displayed inside the premises.
Students are compelled to find their number in A4 size printed papers. Locating a room without proper labels will be another task as a part of the examination.
The invigilator at the room’s gate will again check the slip, CNIC or other identification documents and then allow sitting in the examination.
Most of the time, entry into the examination centre is made almost two hours before the actual time of the paper; therefore, those who are there well before the time must wait with all anxieties and apprehensions about the outcome of the examination.
As soon as the paper starts, the students will desire silence in the examination room to focus on analytical and critical problems.
Still, unfortunately, the invigilator will start taking attendance with the number of instructions for avoiding cheating, etc.
The instructions and announcements for the remaining time will continue during two or three-hour paper without realizing that it distracts students from focusing on the questions.
A wall clock in the room can reduce the series of announcements. As soon as half an hour passes, the examination supervisor will visit and disturb them by randomly checking who is who.
The monitoring team takes similar actions and may visit the examination centre at any time, and the whole centre is monitored for anything which is not allowed in the examination.
It is easy to reserve a seat on a flight or bus with this choice. It is easy to get cash from one’s bank account through thumb impressions at various ATMs, and one can get any SIM with biometrics within seconds.
If our institutions adopt the same biometric identification system, then much of the student harassment during exams can be reduced.
Further, all our efforts and energies are spent on conducting examinations transparently and fairly; why don’t we keep such monitoring when the academic year is in progress?
Have we checked teachers are on time, labs are equipped, libraries are filled with books and benches etc.
Technology provides an opportunity to get out of the traditional way of conducting examinations in a stressed environment.
Multinational companies are conducting tests in the entire world professionally and respectfully, which gives them a good reputation.
In contrast, we are latterly torturing our youths to become sadist officers, academicians, engineers and doctors of the future.
—The writer is Director at Higher Education Commission, Islamabad.