Education Minister of Sindh has advised all educational institutes to remain patient on the reopening as it can cause another crisis situation for the big cities and province at large. He was the first one who advocated for the reopening of schools among all provincial educational ministers but his views are not to open the schools on a same date. In the meeting of Sindh’s Steering Committee on Education, Saeed Ghani, Sindh’s Minister of Education said that schools shall be opened in a phase wise manner rather than simultaneously opening them on 15th September, 2020. All schools shall be allowed to open their gates but for only a few classes rather going back to the normal routine.
Steering committee and Minister were of the same views and recommendations were brought on the table in which 9th and 10th grades should be opened from 15th September, 2020. After careful observation and implementation of SOPs, grades 6 to 8 could be opened in the next week starting from 21st September, 2020. In a similar manner, after one or two weeks, students of grade 5 to 7 can be allowed to attend the schools. Remaining grades can then be opened after another week and in this manner, by the mid or end of October, all schools will revert back to their normal routine.
The reason of implementing such a model is that a small number of students and staff can be monitored effectively and if any crisis situation comes up, it could be managed and controlled immediately. On the other end, he also solved the long questioned matter of students getting admissions in private colleges. All of these colleges are demanding marks sheet on which he instructed Additional Secretary of Education to prepare and deliver marks sheet to all the students in coming week. The meeting was attended by all key stakeholders of Education within the Sindh province.
Lastly, Chairman of the Secondary and Inter Boards of Sindh informed to all that the results are about to be publicized soon. Final dates can change but there are high possibilities that 9th and 10th class results will be announced on 15th September, 2020 with 11th and 12th class results to be declared on 30th September, 2020. The marks sheets of all these students will be available after one week of results announcement.
A Health and Safety Committee was established by LUMS in June 2020 which was aimed at searching opportunities for opening up the campus during pandemic. At that time, covid-19 had reached its height in the country with death going past three figures on daily basis and thousands of new entrants into effected list. Some of the notable professionals were involved in the process including Dr. Samia Altaf, who was heading the committee and now has joined LUMS in permanent capacity as Director of Campus Health and Safety. Some other notable members are also in the process of joining LUMS so that campus safety can be made exemplary as and when the campus opens up.
The committee has also discussed their working with the authorities of DHA and shared safety plans with local hospitals and graveyards. In general, the approach was appreciated by various stakeholders. One of the members from Government of Punjab’s lockdown strategy has also been brought on board. Dr. Shaper Mirza has joined as Associate Professor at School of Science and Engineering in LUMS. The management is of the view that covid-19 cases will remerge when the population gathers and meets each other as it is observed in less effected or infection free countries. The countries where infection has been very minimal or zero, cases have start emerging on the scene as soon as the economy has opened up including Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Greece, France, Germany and Spain.
Possibility of a raise in cases can be predicted as universities are places of mass gathering as said by Director of LUMS. The same trend has been witnessed in United States, where some of the universities had to close down their operations after few days of opening up. In general, LUMS is trying to act positively by implementing all SOPs so that positive cases can be avoided. More importantly, management of LUMS is aware of the fact that virus is here to stay and entire population has to live with it for at least a year or two. In response to that, LUMS is planning a phase wise start starting from 15th September, 2020.
In order to respond to the disagreement of students and institutes, Cambridge issued revised grades and now have also reduced retake registration fee for the October-November exam. Students who are not satisfied with their awarded grades in May-June exams can appear in the exam for improving their respective grades. With a lot of pressure being exerted on Cambridge, the fee cut has been welcomed by most. Cambridge now recognizing the fact that there could be a large number of people appearing in the October-November 2020 exam, hence, they had reduced the retake registration fee to 50%.
Cambridge had cancelled the May-June exam due to outbreak of corona virus and announced a 4-steo process for awarding marks. Schools were asked to share the performances of students with predicting their grades. An announcement was also made by Cambridge which stated that students will be awarded grades on the basis of their performances and predicted grades by their schools. Students were similarly awarded grades in last week but that was in total opposition to what they had expected. Students rejected the results in large numbers and took social media to show their anger.
In response to such anger, Cambridge and Federal Ministry of Education also discussed the matter with one another. As a result, Cambridge is now in the process of announcing revised grades for all students. Schools predicted grades will now be given primary importance with higher grade being awarded to the students if Cambridge predicts a lower grade in comparison to school’s grade. Meanwhile, Cambridge has also advised the schools to communicate the changes in grades to their students so that they are aware of the arrangements being made by Cambridge for maximum facilitation of students.
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.