With the announcement of HSSC part-II and then the SSC exams results in the third week of October 2021, the Punjab Education Department, and especially the education boards, responsible for conducting the exams, turned into a laughing stock across the country. The official declaration that hundreds of students had shared first, second and third positions in the board exams by securing full 1100 marks, or only two or four less marks, became the talk of the town.
The social media started churning out jokes about the “generosity” of the boards in awarding marks to students. One such joke was an overloaded train, captained: “Students from across the globe are reaching Punjab to take matriculation and intermediate board exams after the announcement of the 2021 results”.
One “overjoyed” man said on his Facebook account that he had parked his motorbike outside the Lahore education board building. When he came back to take it away, he saw “a bag full of marks” hanging by the handle bar. Another witty guy tweeted that he was graced with full 1100 marks by the education authorities when he had successfully drove his mini-truck through the road passing by the Lahore board building during the rush hours.
All these jokes and satire were not without a reason, of course. According to the official results, 117 candidates of boards of intermediate and secondary education of Lahore, Multan, Bahawalpur and Dera Ghazi Khan obtained full marks (1100) in the results of the Higher Secondary School Certificate, part-II, announced on Oct 14, 2021. Fifty-two candidates of the Lahore BISE secured full marks, most of them girls. In Multan, 48 students, Bahawalpur 12 students, and in DG Khan, five students obtained full marks.
Over 23,737 students received A+ grade, including 15,589 in pre-medical, 4,505 in pre-engineering, 2,999 in general science, 422 in commerce and 5,403 in humanities. Over 29,601 got A grade, 29,601 B grade, 35,067 C, 39,219 D and 24,347 E in the annual examination.
However, under the Covid-19 policy, 24,347 students were declared successful with the award of grace marks, and 2,401 failed for not appearing for the exam. The matriculation (secondary school certificate) results were not much different from the HSSC part-II results. A record 707 students scored full 1100 marks in Lahore, 400 candidates in Gujranwala, 432 in Dera Ghazi Khan, and 242 in Bahawalpur board exams.
The annual examination was held under the Examination Policy Covid-19, which said that the candidates would appear only for the elective subjects. The average marks obtained in elective subjects were reflected in compulsory subjects with five per cent additional marks. All those who failed in any subject were granted 33% marks.
The special exams and then unprecedented results evoked a mixed reaction among the stakeholders. Abdul Waheed Goraya, a chemistry teacher at a private college in New Muslim Town of Lahore, finds it a clever decision in the special circumstances. In a talk with Cutting Edge, he said the coronavirus pandemic had badly affected education the world over. When there was a great fear of its spread at a large scale, the government authorities took a good decision of conducting exams of matriculation and intermediate students with all precautionary measures. In special circumstances, some unusual outcomes might occur, like the award of full marks to a large number of students, or all students appearing for the exams being declared pass, but the most appreciable thing was saving students precious academic years and continuation of their education journey without any break.
However, educationist Nasim Zahra Naqvi does not agree with Mr. Goraya. She is a senior Urdu teacher at a private college system, situated at Canal Bank Road near the Ferozepur Road underpass in Lahore. She regrets that the Education Department messed up the serious exercise of exams and turned the entire process into a laughing stock for all and sundry. “Only those students performed well in the exams who were good at science subjects, but those good at language and social studies or Islamiat were deprived of an opportunity to secure respectable grades,” she explains her viewpoint while talking to Cutting Edge.
The senior teacher believes all seven papers could also have been managed by the board authorities with all precautionary measures in place. She says one should not forget the fact that 24,347 students, the largest fraction of those taking the Intermediate examination in Lahore, were declared pass with the award of grace marks. “Had they been provided with an opportunity to take all papers, including Urdu, English and Pakistan Studies/ Islamiat, they would also have passed their exams with relative good grades,” Ms. Naqvi says.
Talib Hussain, a parent and a senior security staff member at the Lahore Press Club, endorses Nasim Zahra’s viewpoint. He tells Cutting Edge that his son could secure only 400 out of 1100 marks in FSc part-2 exams “as he was forced to take only science subject papers”. He says that his son was a student at a higher secondary school in Nankana Sahib, his native town, where science teachers mostly remain unavailable throughout the year. In such cases, students are mostly good at subjects which they can prepare for without the help of teachers. “Depriving such students of taking all subjects exams is really an injustice. Now, my son is finding no college where he could get admission with such low marks, and continue his education,” Talib Hussain shares his problem.