Education minister says sole exception will be A2 students, who risk wasting a year if they defer their exams
Education Minister Shafqat Mahmood on Tuesday announced that all examinations, including Cambridge International’s ongoing O/A-Level exams, will be postponed until June 15 in light of the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Flanked by Special Assistant to the P.M. on Health Dr. Faisal Sultan, he told a press conference that from April 18—when the last meeting of the education ministry had been held—till now, the number of coronavirus cases across Pakistan had rapidly increased. To curb its spread, he said the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC) had decided to postpone all exams until June 15. The sole exception, he said, would be students of A2, who must sit the examinations now or risk wasting a year.
“Exams of grades 9-12, which were supposed to begin from the end of May, have been delayed further,” said Mahmood. “No board exams will be held till mid-June,” he said, adding that the country appeared to be headed for a complete lockdown in areas with high positivity ratios, making it increasingly difficult for students to study and sit exams.
The federal minister clarified that the NCOC would meet again in the third week of May and decide whether any further delays to the exams were merited. “If the exams take place after June 15, they may continue in July and even August,” he said.
Addressing the Cambridge exams that commenced on Monday, Mahmood said all but A2 exams would now be held in the October/November cycle. “Yesterday, we saw that some Cambridge exam centers violated the coronavirus standard operating procedures,” he said. “Therefore, from Monday onwards, the government will ensure the deployment of law enforcement agencies outside of the exam centers to ensure compliance with the SOPs,” he added.
“Those students who wish to seek admission in Pakistani universities will be able to do so until January as the government will take the universities on board in this regard,” he said, adding that for A2 students, the government had directed Cambridge International to ensure no exam venue would have more than 50 people at the same time to ensure social distancing.
Despite the postponement, Mahmood emphasized, exams would still be conducted as soon as the pandemic’s spread was curbed. “All education ministers unanimously decided that no promotions can be granted without exams, but for the sake of facilitating student the exams will be held in the October/ November session or after June/July [for local board exams],” he added.
Following the press conference, the British Council Pakistan issued a statement noting that the May-June 2021 O-, IGCSE and A-Level exams had been cancelled due to increasing concerns over the ongoing spread of COVID-19 nationwide. “However, it has confirmed that Cambridge International A Level exams can continue to go ahead, to ensure students can progress with their education beyond school,” it said. “The government has asked us to reduce the number of students sitting Cambridge International A-Level exams in any one venue, at the same time, from Monday May 3 onward,” it added.
Stressing that both the British Council and Cambridge International supported the government’s decision, it said efforts were underway to make new arrangements for exams from Monday. “We will update schools and students with the new venue details” soon, it said, adding that students should continue to go their previously announced venues through this week. “We will also be in touch with schools and students who were due to take their Cambridge O-Level, IGCSE and AS Levels in this exam series with arrangements for re-entering students in the October/November 2021 exam series,” it added.