Federal education minister says Grades 1-8 to stay closed until April 28 in districts with high incidence of coronavirus infections
The O/A-Level exams conducted under the Cambridge Education System will proceed as scheduled, as these can be managed with SOPs and are unlikely to attract very large numbers, federal Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood announced on Tuesday.
Addressing media after a meeting of the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), he said that senior health and education officials of all federating units and provinces had unanimously agreed that children’s health and future success was their paramount concern. “We focused on two things during today’s meeting: whether to keep schools closed and whether upcoming examinations needed to be rescheduled,” he said.
According to the minister, the NCOC decided grades 1-8 would remain closed for in-person classes in districts with high incidence of coronavirus infections. “This measure will remain in place until April 28,” he said, noting that an earlier meeting had decided to keep all educational institutions closed till April 11 in areas with positivity ratios over 8 percent. Similarly, he said, universities would remain closed—or shift to online learning—in areas with high positivity, while universities in areas with low infectivity would be allowed to return to normal operations.
“The provinces will decide what districts require extended closures of educational institutions,” he said, adding that the NCOC would revisit these decisions in a meeting on April 28. “In that meeting, we will decide if schools need to remain shut until after Eid, or whether they can resume operations [in light of pandemic situation],” he added.
“Grades 9-12 will return to normal classes from April 19,” said Mahmood, stressing that standard operating procedures would be “strictly” enforced. “This will apply to all districts, including those with high incidence of the coronavirus,” he said, adding that classes could be attended in a staggered manner to maintain social distancing.
“This decision is being taken to allow students sufficient time to prepare for their promotional exams,” he said. “These exams will proceed as planned, but their dates might shift a bit,” he said.
According to Mahmood, approximately 40,000,000 children sit the exams for grades 9-12. “They will now be held in the third week of May to allow for more time to prepare and for the pandemic spread to slow down,” he said, adding that some exams might not happen until June, and some others until July.
In light of this decision, he said, university administrators would be asked to “slightly” delay their admissions to allow for the submission of delayed results.
Referring to Cambridge’s O/A level exams, the education minister said that these could not be unilaterally rescheduled as these were not conducted locally. “Only around 85,000 students nationwide will sit these exams,” he said, adding that they would be conducted with SOPs.
“According to our information, around 4,000 children will sit exams on April 26. There are a few days with 10-12,000. Cambridge has promised to ensure that SOPs will be ensured in these exams,” he said, clarifying that contrary to rumors all countries in the region were conducting exams apart from Bangladesh. “Data provided by Cambridge also shows that 80 percent of countries are conducting exams this year,” he added.
The education minister urged all students to prepare for their exams, stressing that they would take place this year and would not be cancelled. “We all believe these exams are essential for the future success of students,” he added.