Pakistan conducted CAIE exams despite massive demand from students to cancel papers amid COVID-19
Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood Tuesday raised concerns about “poor” compliance with standard operating procedures (SOPs) outside the CAIE (Cambridge Assessment International Education) examination centres.
Taking to Twitter, the minister noted that permission to hold exams was conditional on strict observance of SOPs aimed at curtailing the spread of COVID-19. He further said several reports have confirmed that compliance outside the exam centre was poor, adding that the issue will be discussed in a special meeting with National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) taking place on Tuesday.
Pakistan began Cambridge O and A Level exams on Monday, despite nationwide call from students and parents to postpone or cancel the papers amid surge of COVID-19 infections. Hundreds of students took to social media platforms to raise their demand to cancel exams using various hashtags such as #NCOCcancelexam and #ImranKhanCancelExams. Students of O and A levels also appealed to Prime Minister Imran Khan to postpone CAIE exams after four high courts rejected their petition to cancel physical exams.
However, the Pakistan government decided to go ahead with the exams. In an interview with Geo News, Shafqat Mehmood said the number of students taking the Cambridge exams in Pakistan is small and the NCOC agreed on conducting the exams.
“The decision was taken in view of the fact that the number of students taking the Cambridge exams is small, therefore, SOPs can be managed,” the federal minister said.
Responding to the massive demand to cancel the exams, Shafqat Mehmood had assured that the Ministry would ensure strict implementation of health protocols during the exams.
“British Council is committed to strict implementation of SOPs and we will monitor them closely,” he said.
But as exams began on Monday, several videos surfaced on social media showing thousands of children inside examination halls and parents outside the centres in a clear violation of SOPs.
Earlier, the Education Minister and the head of the British Council and Cambridge Pakistan visited a number of exam centres to ensure strict compliance with COVID-19 SOPs. On April 25, Cambridge International issued a statement, noting that it is conducting exams in those countries where the government had allowed. Speaking to Geo News on Sunday, Federal Minister Mahmood said that all provincial educational ministers agreed on going forward with conducting the exams as per the schedule.
Meanwhile, Pakistan has postponed Matriculation and Intermediate board exams across until late May in view of the COVID-19 pandemic. This development has come at a time when Pakistan is grappling with the third wave of COVID-19.