Lahore: The Punjab government seriously needs to rethink as to how it can assess learning achievements of grade-V and grade-VIII students as over the years the body tasked to perform this sensitive job, the Punjab Examination Commission, has seemingly failed to do the same.
This failure is evident in the shape of reports regarding leakage of question papers, poor arrangements for the conduct of examinations as well as concerns expressed by teachers and students about the results, over the years.
On the other hand, so far no tangible benefits have come to the surface on the basis of assessing learning outcomes of the students whatsoever by the government, exposing flaws in planning and subsequent implementation on part of those at the helm. Ever since its inception in 2006, the history of Punjab Examination Commission (PEC) is dotted with controversies. In 2007, the then government had to cancel the PEC examinations and promote students to next grades without any examination as the teachers boycotted the exams as part of their protest against the government. Besides this, almost every year there had been reports of poor invigilation in the PEC exams as well as rampant cheating and inadequate facilities provided to the candidates at the examination centres. One wonders what assessment could be made on the basis of such an exam!
The PEC exams are held on uniform basis across the province in which over one million candidates, each for grade-V and grade-VIII, appear on the annual basis. Interestingly, for this massive exercise, the PEC has a “core team” comprising just four individuals, including its chief executive officer. With no physical presence even at the divisional level and with no field staff and logistics and no examination centre of its own, PEC handles this sensitive activity through the EDOs Education in the districts.
The stakeholders argue that the government after establishing the PEC totally ignored the same and never thought of structural reforms it needed to make this body effective to achieve the desired results and apply the same afterwards to contribute towards quality education. Another point of concern is that the PEC gets the question papers printed from private printers, which is enough to understand the kind of risk attached with regard to the leakage of the papers. Few years back, the incumbent Punjab government aggressively took up the issue of guess papers in a bid to eliminate “unfair means” (booti mafia). However, even today this business is going on unchecked in Pakistan’s largest stationery market Urdu Bazaar here.
The only change is that the printers no more use the word guess papers and instead have coined the term “Papers Book”. These “Papers Books” are sold like hotcakes ahead of examination and those famous for their “guess” make millions in just few days. The stakeholders have urged the government to investigate this important aspect as well in the ongoing investigation with regard to the recent leakage of grade-8 question paper which the PEC had to cancel. Undoubtedly, maintaining secrecy and transparency are the keys to hold successful examinations and when these very basic principles are challenged the whole exercise seems a total sham and nothing else.
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