Contrary to what Pakistan's O Level students believed and hoped for, postponing exams wasn't the last they were going to hear from Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on the exam situation during the Covid-19 pandemic. O Level students have been shaken awake from their wishful slumber with the Ministry of Education's latest decision.
The announcement came on Thursday, from the minister himself. According to the announcement, the ministry "issued an NOC today to the British Council allowing it to hold special O Level exams from July 26 to August 6." In what the authorities are calling a "mini exam series", students will be required to give a decreased number of components for their exam.
"This kind of exam in July is unprecedented and I am happy that Cambridge is arranging it," said Mahmood.
It is understood that the decision does not apply to A Level students.
In a later tweet, Mahmood admitted the difficulty of making effective decisions during these extraordinary times, especially in matters relating to education. "We have been taking difficult decisions to ensure that education/ learning continues," he said, claiming that with such decisions, the "interest/welfare of students is always paramount".
This tweet sums up the common sentiment around the latest decision. It is considered hasty and unfair, as students and administrators alike felt there was no need for it.
The user, who says she is a teacher herself, believes Mahmood is hellbent on making life difficult for students.
Mahmood argued that the intention was to facilitate students, to make it possible for them to continue their further studies — A Levels or FSC — in time so they don't have to waste an academic year but critics didn't buy it. With exams happening one after the other, the decision arguably not coming early enough and the stress of the pandemic, several people argued that the government's decision is meaningless as students will nonetheless find themselves reappearing for exams in winter 2021.
Since the start of this academic crisis, Pakistani students have asked for one thing: school assessed grades. The practice has been adopted across the world — in neighbouring India as well as the CAIEs' home country, the UK — students pointed out, asking why Pakistan can't follow suit. This argument was brought up again.
This user argued that the government should put this effort into creating a new mechanism and system for students to be tested and graded.
Recently, Mahmood tested positive for the coronavirus. A disappointed father who had planned and made reservations for his son and himself to travel and meet family, he said he would "not pray for your [Shafqat Mahmood] speedy recovery". Withdrawing his support, he said he hoped Mahmood develops some sense. The tweet was liked and retweeted several times.
Beyond criticism, some students felt hurt. They slammed Mahmood and had some less than kind things to say about him and his decisions.
It would unfair, however, to say that the decision was met exclusively with criticism and rage. There were rare tweets appreciating Mahmood's decisions as well and some students felt a mini exam session later this summer was the way to go.
This probably isn't the last we'll hear of this issue and students' opinions on it. What do you think about the government's decision?