Pakistan: Students devastated by poor grades, demand government action

Islamabad: While rejecting mock results of O-level and A-level exams announced recently by the Cambridge Assessment International Education (CAIE), scores of Pakistani students have demanded the government to take up the matter with the authorities to help prevent their futures being jeopardized because of the ‘unfair’ grading system this year.

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This year, O and A level examinations were not held due to the coronavirus pandemic and the students were graded on the ‘evidence-based’ grading system.

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What is evidence-based grading system?

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In the evidence-based grading system, the CAIE asked teachers to use evidence and professional judgement to predict grades for each student in each subject they have entered for in the May/June 2020 exam series, based on what the student would have achieved if normal teaching had gone ahead.

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The protesting students allege that they have been discriminated against compared to students from England and Scotland as Scotland has succumbed to the public outcry over downgraded qualifications and reviewed the results while in England the government has made a statement permitting students to choose between the awarded qualification, their mock result or a free retake.

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The international students from some 160 countries – majority from Africa and South Asia – however, were not given these options and though the international schools submitted expected grades, yet in most of the cases students expecting A grades, were awarded C, D, E and even F from CAIE.

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Future of students at stake

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Ahad, an A-level student complained his results did not match the expected grades. “I got all As and A+ in O-levels, the highest in my school but in the mock results announced this Tuesday, I got 2As, one C and one D—C and D grade in two major A-level subjects, Math and Economics—I still can’t grasp what has happened,” he said.

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Not only Ahad but hundreds of other O and A-level students are complaining about this ‘unfair’ treatment. In Pakistan some 550 schools are affiliated with CAIE and offer O, A-level courses.

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Meanwhile, the Federal Minister for Education Shafqat Mahmood has come forward in support of the aggrieved students and shared on his Twitter account that he has taken up the matter with CAIE.

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“I have received many complaints about unfair grading and have conveyed to Cambridge the concern of students. I am hopeful that CAIE will look into it and take remedial measures,” he said.

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Punjab Education Minister Murad Raas too in an announcement on social media said the students were wronged by the CAIE. “To all the O and A level students and their parents, CAIE has been completely unfair with our Children. Right now I am requesting Cambridge to fix the grading problem. If they don’t, I will go after them with everything possible. I am standing with our Children.”

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In another tweet, Murad Rass said, “Approximately 125,000 O’Level students and 75,000 A’Level students. Cost O’ Level Rs 16,000 [Dh 348.09] per subject & A’Level Rs 19,000 [Dh413.36] per subject. Do the Math. To give the grades that have been given by CAIE & charge our students again will be highway robbery.”

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The aggrieved Pakistani students on Thursday gathered in front of the National Press Club to record their protest and took out a rally to D-Chowk urging the authorities to take up the matter with the CAIE.

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CAIE welcomes criticism

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Meanwhile, in a tweet, CAIE welcomed all the critical tweets from students and their teachers or parents, however, making it clear there was no room of racist, sexist or homophobic abuse and all such accounts will be blocked.

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“While we welcome critical tweets from students we cannot tolerate racist, sexist, or homophobic abuse and will block and report users who engage in this behavior,” said the CAIE in its tweet.

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