Allama Iqbal Open University (AIOU) is one of the major academic centers in the country. Thousands of students are currently enrolled with the university with this number increasing every day. In order to facilitate the students owing to corona virus, AIOU has announced its new financial assistance policy. As per university’s newly launched policy, AIOU will provide financial assistance to poor, physically challenged people, prisoners, transgenders and children of martyrs. This policy has been launched for the admissions of Autumn semester of 2020. The future of these classes shall be discussed at a later stage that whether there will be any physical classes or continue through online teaching but admissions are now open.
A decent enough amount has already been allocated to the Financial Assistance Fund of the university so that needy students can be facilitated. This practice is followed every year for uplifting the under privileged people of the society. But this year, it is being enhanced in comparison to all previous years for increasing the scope of financial assistance owing to the economic and financial crisis caused by the deadly virus across the world. Vice Chancellor of the university said that AIOU is aimed at social and economic development of society and they will continue to work on it. Director of Students Advisory and Counseling, Rana Muhammad Tariq Javed said that all of the students as mentioned above can apply for the financial assistance by obtaining a form for fee concession from Regional Offices of AIOU.
Nevertheless, the form can also be downloaded from the website of AIOU and detailed information regarding the financial assistance can also be acquired through the official website. Afterwards, the form can be filled accordingly as per the category of applicant. Furthermore, this facility has also been made available for the existing students. Those students who are studying currently shall fill in the forms in the same manner as new students would be required and then submit their forms to their respective regional offices. However, a cut-off date for existing and new students has been determined by the university. Existing students can submit their forms to their respective regional offices not later than 24th August, 2020 and new students shall apply for fee concession by 31st August, 2020.
According to recent notification issued by Education Department of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), all two years Bachelor programs have been abolished including the notable programs of B.A and B. Sc. A notification has also been issued and circulated among the entire province stating that now all new admissions shall be made in 4-year BS programs. No college shall now be allowed to grant admission in 2-year Bachelor program rather all 128 colleges will now only be permitted to grant admissions in 4-year BS programs.
This decision has been made in the light of Higher Education Commission’s (HEC) decision back in 2019 and was to be made effective in 2020. Punjab Education Department was quick to react with terminating all two year programs and replacing it with a 3-year Associate Degree program (ADP). The unique feature that ADP provides is a shortened degree as it was opted in 2-year programs. Another area added into ADP was that students have to undergo a practical training program at any of the organizations in line with their specialization. KP has replaced 2-year program with a 4-year program but it is to be seen that will they be using the model of Punjab government or stick with their own version.
Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education has announced the result for intermediate classes which is termed as Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC). The exams were not conducted owing to the corona virus pandemic and students were to be promoted as per new promotion policy of government. Students of 12th class were to be awarded marks based on previous class with 3% of additional marks in comparison to the previous year marks of students. Results were announced on Thursday which were welcomed by most of the students and institutes. While the results were welcomed by all, female students were able to secure most of the positions.
A special ceremony was arranged in Islamabad in which all position holders were invited and female students clearly outnumbered the male students. Chief Guest of the event was Parliamentary Secretary for Federal Education and Professional Training, Ms. Wajiha Akram. Ceremony was also attended by parents of the position holders, teachers of various institutes while it was hosted by the Chairman of Federal Board, Rao Atiq Ahmad. The results suggested that there were more than 70,000 students who appeared for exams including private, regular and repeating students. Passing percentage for the current year stood at 93.22% with 66,635 students passing the exams.
As far as the positions are concerned, Zainab Afzal from Gilgit, Haleema Gul from Islamabad and Muhammad Hassan from Islamabad too secured 1st, 2nd and 3rd positions respectively in the humanities group. In Pre-Medical group, all top three positions were secured by female students including Saira Azhar, Aneesa Rashid and Mahnoor Fatima. All students belonged from Rawalpindi. In addition to that, Minahil Nadeem and Ayza Amer were able to stood 1st and 2nd in Pre-Engineering group with 3rd position being shared between Muhammad Ahmed Mohsin and Rakhmeen Gul. A foreign student was also able to secure position in results. In General Science group, 1st position was shared between Hira from Rawalpindi and Suman Asim from Saudi Arabia. 2nd and 3rd positions were also secured by female students including Shifa Imran and Nimra Mushtaq.
Lastly, commerce group was only a different one in which 1st and 2nd positions were shared by male students including Khalid from Rawalpindi and Said Ali from Qatar, whereas, 3rd position was secured by female student, Mahnoor Qaiser. All parents, teachers, schools and Federal board was being congratulated by Parliamentary Secretary. She said in her keynote address that conducting exams was a different challenge altogether for the government this year, hence, there was a need of immediate plan B. The policy which was adopted for promoting students is applied by Federal Board which is appreciable in its own manner. She also appreciated the efforts of Madrassahs in mainstreaming themselves as it is a major player in exams.
Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training has taken the front seat with announcing dissociations with all such news. There were high chances of exams being cancelled as done in the case of board exams in the country. However, news regarding the cancellation of O Levels and A Levels exam was circulating in the social media but there is no such official intimation neither by the international exam conducting bodies nor by the education ministry or departments. The news had gained such importance and was circulated in huge numbers that Federal Minister had to inform the public by tweeting himself.
Federal Minister, Shafqat Mahmood has used Twitter on previous instances as well, such as, announcing the tele-school project, closure of institutes, cancellation of exams, and now validating the fake news. Mahmood was also involved in disassociating himself and government in last month with the rumors of schools opening from 15th July. General public on social media platforms had taken the fake news quite seriously and started registering their concerns. At last, when a lot of pressure was created for the officials, finally, Federal Minister came out for explaining the exact situation. Nevertheless, there has been no such official decision regarding the cancellation or banning of neither O Levels nor A Levels.
Federal Ministry of Education and Professional Training has formed a committee for bringing a blend of technology into education sector. Entire world has gone to online platforms for the purpose of imparting education and Pakistan has been of no difference either. A meeting was presided by Shafqat Mahmood, Federal Minister of Education in which Education and Technology sectors were involved. He is of the view that there are many hurdles in the way of education, hence, technology can only play a role in solving those issues.
At the end of meeting, a committee was formed led by Additional Secretary of Education, Mohiyuddin Ahmed Vani. The aim of this committee will be to develop an implementation plan for bringing technology into the education sector. Federal Minister also stressed on public – private sector institutes partnerships in bringing them together on one page. Ed-Tech companies were thanked by the ministry of education as it was to their credit that ministry was able to execute a successful tele-school initiative.
At this very moment, it was also mutually agreed that all previous educational systems have been terminated and now technology is the only way forward. A technology-based model will be now used for the purpose of content development, teachers training, development of rural areas and monitoring of teachers and students as well.
The situation has constantly stayed away from getting normalized but the educational institutes are keep on modifying their practices for coping with the challenges. A recent development which took place was an online convocation held by the management of LUMS. The ceremony was held using Facebook in which all the students according to their class wise and session wise logged into one single virtual session. Key note address was given by Pakistan’s Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai. Other key people present in the virtual convocation were Rector, Founding Pro-Chancellor, Pro-Chancellor and Vice Chancellor. The total number of students graduating in the convocation were 1,092 students across various departments.
Virtual convocation started through a welcome note by Registrar of the university and started with national anthem. Caps were worn by all the graduates and students celebrated their achievements by seeing a video made by the student council of university. A video with the name of Alvida was shown expressing the associations and times spent at LUMS by the fresh graduates. Vice Chancellor of the University said that now it is time for these students to go out in the market and exhibit their skills which they had learned during the course of their degree.
Key note speaker, Malala Yousafzai also motivated students with highlighting her own journey. She said that one has to take a step forward for doing something of value. She also stressed the importance of government’s investment into education sector and this is what a most valuable input towards an education can be. All of the dignitaries added their valuable inputs for the students including Rector, Pro – Chancellor – Mr. Razzaq Dawood and Syed Babar Ali. Moreover, LUMS alumni were also invited for the convocation and they were asked to share their experience at LUMS and in professional world. Deans of various schools were also asked to guide the fresh graduates. Lastly, high performing students were recognized that were either on Dean’s honor list or were able to win medals.
Sindh’s provincial government has signed an agreement with various NGOs including Charter for Compassion (CFC) and Health and Nutrition Development Society (HANDS). These agreements are done for enhancing educational facilities of the public schools. The educational ministry of Sindh has highlighted 71 schools which will be handed over to these NGOs for a period of next ten years. These schools shall be transformed by those NGOs based on private schools’ model as far as educational standards are concerned. By keeping in check the performance, other schools will be remodeled and could be further handed over to these NGOs.
71 schools which will be handed over are from four districts of Sindh including Karachi, Larkana, Dadu and Qamber Shahdadkot. Out of these 71 schools, 25 of the schools are the newly constructed USAID schools. This project will also be funded from Government of Sindh and USAID with major share to be added from USAID amounting $159 Million. Basic aim of this project is to improve the educational standard with increasing student intake and bringing girls back into schools. Moreover, NGOs are also directed to bring reforms in education and work on developing schools, increasing community mobilization and establishing public-private partnerships.
Quaid-e-Azam University in Islamabad had advertised and opened up their new intake in the previous month. The deadline for applications into various programs was till the end of July, 2020. However, due to the global pandemic situation across the world, educational institutes and students too have been coping with the online education. In order to facilitate students, the admissions deadline has been extended.
A recent press release issued by the university states that for facilitating and accommodating some of the students who were unable to apply in time, the deadline has been extended. Few more days have been added and now students interested to study in Quaid-e-Azam University can apply till 3rd August, 2020. It is important to note that this deadline has also been extended owing to the possibility of matric and intermediate results. The deadline has been increased for all undergraduate programs of the university. Students have to apply online as entire processes of education are being automated due to covid-19. Applications can be sent to university through their official website.
Where the entire globe learns to cope with the pandemic, educational sector of Pakistan has been working on trial and error method. While most of this is being observed in Sindh of late as recently, Sindh government have cancelled their own notification of MDCAT to be conducted by Peoples University of Medical and Health Sciences for Women (PUMHS) for all the medical colleges. This decision was taken in the wake of corona virus as minimum number of institutes will open and one of the experienced institute can conduct exams for all. However, a detailed plan was to be followed for answering various key elements.
Moreover, this notification was issued by Health Ministry rather than the Education Ministry but was later on, endorsed by them as well. The decision faced a lot of criticism by political figures, students and even some of the institutes stating that the competition of medical colleges is fierce and how can one medical college conduct exams for all others. All the MBBS and BDS entrance tests were handed over to PUMHS. Another criticism faced by this notification was that urban students will be unduly favored in this with ignoring a major portion of students coming from rural and interior Sindh. However, the notification has been revoked of now and the admissions policy has also been revoked to its status-quo. All medical and dental colleges are independent for conducting its own entry tests and having their own admissions policy. But what will be its implications and are they really in a position to conduct entrance tests is a question to answer with time.
All the private and public sector colleges are advised by the Educational Ministry and Education Department of Punjab that no student shall be granted an admission into 1st year on the basis of 9th class result. Earlier announcement by the government in the month of May and June ensured that students will be able to get admissions on the basis of marks in 9th class but the same statement is suspended for the time being. Punjab government has made it clear that until the results of matric are not declared, no student will be allowed to take an admission in any of the colleges.
The notification suggesting this information was shared with all educational institutes on Wednesday which clearly stated that admissions shall be granted only after the results of matric are declared. Admissions schedule can only be released by colleges after Punjab board declares the result for current year. In addition to that, all those colleges violating the notification will result in legal action against them.