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O/A level equivalence controversy, IBCC reduces marks

Equivalence controversy surfaces again
Lahore, Sep 01, 2008: Following the announcement of O/A level results, the issue of equivalence has surfaced once again as there has been a hue and cry about the alleged discriminatory policy of the Inter Board Committee of Chairmen (IBCC), a government body responsible for granting equivalence to foreign qualifications.

The stakeholders say that the students having O/A levels qualifications have to face problems in seeking admissions to the institutes of higher learning, especially medical colleges owing to the alleged unjustified equivalence policy of the IBCC. They say that the IBCC reduces the original marks obtained by students in the said foreign qualifications and does not give them more than 85 per cent marks even if they obtain 98 per cent marks, adding that most of the O/A level students cannot get admissions to medical colleges because of marks reduction by the IBCC. They demand updating and revamping of the equivalence mechanism to provide relief to the students with foreign qualifications.

Dr Farhat, a concerned citizen, said the reduction in marks by the IBCC was causing great disparity among the O/A level students and the FSc students, adding that the policy was unjustified and it was putting such students in extreme trouble. He was of the view that the idea of equivalence was to maintain uniformity, however, it had resulted in devastating effects on O/A level students as even the A graders could not get through the admission process.

Farhat said the A graders should not be given less than 90 per cent marks at the time of equivalence. He stressed the need of testing O/A level students from their latest courses, complaining that the entry test for admission to medical colleges was based on the FSc course. He demanded that the conversion formula of IBCC should be updated.

Commenting on the issue, IBCC Secretary Muhammad Ramzan Achakzai said there were two UK examining boards, including the University of Cambridge International Examinations known as CIE and Edexcel International Examinations offering O/A levels in Pakistan, adding that those qualifying CIE exams usually complained about equivalence policy unlike the students of Edexcel.

He said the problem surfaced every year as the CIE was misleading the public by printing percentages and not actual marks on its certificates issued to the Pakistani students.

"The CIE is issuing certificates to the Pakistani students which are different from those issued to students in other parts of the world and this is misleading," he said, adding that the CIE had been asked to print original marks of the students on its certificates but to no avail.

When contacted, CIE Country Manager Relations and Communication Uzma Yousuf asked this correspondent to email queries about the issue, saying she would reply within a couple of days. The email containing questions was sent to her on August 25 however no reply had been received so far. The News

Your Comments
"if i have one B, one D and one E in a-levels, how many marks will it be equal to Fsc? "
Name: Ahmad
Email: ahmadchathas@hotmail.com
City, Country: Lahore,Pakistan

"i got 641/1050 in matric.Then i got one B one D & one E in A-Levels.How many marks is it equal to Fsc? "
Name: Ahmad
Email: ahmadchathas@hotmail.com
City, Country: Lahore,Pakistan

"i have D in bio,E in chemistry,E in physics, what will my eqivalency certificate.student who spent two years in a level,he should be elligible for fsc examination because a level failure mean no way for the student in education in pakistan and parents cannt pay more for him and the student attempted suicide because of this situation a level failure students should allow for fsc exam"
Name: sahar
Email: mirchi_maza@hotmail.com
City, Country: lahore,pakistan

"i had taken pak studies and urdu litrature paper of olevels in may june 2009 and got B and A respectively so now british council haas changed their policy for gradingso i need equilency for my grades your prompt reply awaited"
Name: osamasajid
Email: osamasajid09@yahoo.com
City, Country: lahore pakistan

"Whats the equelance policy for Urdu B in O Level. If i switch to urdu B from A in O levels will it make any difference when equelance will be made after O Levels."
Name: Mustafa
Email: uplmustafa@hotmail.com
City, Country: Lahore,Pakistan

"what is the equivalence percentage of following A level grades : Maths : B Physics: D Chemistry: D and Olevel equivalence marks: 619/900"
Name: Kehkashan Kazmi
Email: kehkashankazmi@hotmail.com
City, Country: Karachi, Pakistan

"i got E grade in O levels in 2010 examination so what grade i will get when it will be equivilised to matric level."
Name: usama
Email: usama_satti81@yahoo.com
City, Country: rawalpindi pakistan

"can an equivalence be made if i have two complete alevels and one as level"
Name: Waleed
Email: crucify_niger@hotmail.com
City, Country: Islamabad

"i have secured A* in mathematics, A* in physics,A* in urdu,A* in pakistan-studies,A* in islamyat,A in biology,A in chemistry and B in english.In brief i got 5A*,2A and 1B in olevels.WHAT ARE MY EQUIVALENE MARKS?"
Name: zainab
Email: zainabhaq@ymail.com
City, Country:Bahawalpur,Pakistan

"i am a student of grade 8 and am not sure of either to do o level or matric please guide me"
Name: ghazanfar ali
Email:ali.ghazanfar20@yahoo.com
City, Country: shiekhupura,pakistan

"My O level result is 7 A*s and 3 As. I had A*s in Physics, chemistry, biology, ICT(Information Communication and Technology),Islamiyat, Commerce and English. Also I had an A in maths, urduA and Pakstudies. What are my equivalence marks???? Reply asap please."
Name: Eman
Email:eman1315@hotmail.com
City, Country: Lahore, Pakistan

"My results are 3 A*s,2 As,1 D and 1 C. What are my equivalence marks. PLease reply fast. I need them urgently."
Name: Muhammad
Email:mohammad_hamza812@yahoo.com
City, Country: Islamabad

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Regulating private education
It seems that a lot of people, parents, bureaucrats, policy-makers and other stakeholders want providers of private education, at the school level, to be regulated. They feel schools get away with too much when they are allowed to charge the fees they want and make decisions about curriculum and other related issues in any way they like. And the government has indeed been moving in this direction.

Apart from other legislations and requirements, provincial and federal governments have also been thinking about the need for sector-specific regulator for private education. The federal government passed the ordinance for setting up a private education regulator for capital territory back in 2006. The regulator has been in operation for about a year now. This ordinance and regulator could, potentially, act as a pilot for similar regulations and regulators in the provinces.

The ordinance under which the federal regulator has been set-up has some major and a lot of minor issues. We will mention a few in due course but, more importantly, despite the regulator being there in Islamabad, the case for regulation of private education is not very clearly established. We need to have a detailed look at that before we go to the ordinance.

Why do we want to regulate the provision of education? It is true that school education has a public good element where the society has an interest in a) ensuring that all children in Pakistan get quality school education, and b) that there are certain elements, possibly related to civic roles of citizens, that are present in the education of all children. But this public good element does not automatically necessitate regulation and especially a specific regulator.

From a rights argument and from the argument of education being a public good, all we need is that every child has access to good quality education. This is the responsibility of the state but whether the state provides the access through public schools or whether it happens through provision of equally accessible private education is immaterial. Since most private education provision is for profit, if a government relies on private education providers it has to ensure access for the poor but, once again, that also does not mean that we need regulation. Similarly the fact that the society needs some input into curriculum so that national goals are taken care of is also not an argument for regulation.

This can also be achieved through managing the school leaving examination system. For example, if we wanted to ensure that students have a good understanding of South Asian history or Islamic history, we could set-up exams for these areas at the matriculation or intermediate level. The state could specify the syllabi for the areas, and all schools, irrespective of ownership, will have to prepare students for these areas. Again there does not seem to be a need for regulation here.

The most popular demand for regulation seems to come from parents who complain that there should be some mechanism for ensuring that private schools do not exploit their monopoly power to extract higher level of tuition fees from parents. This aspect needs exploration. We usually do not require regulation for prices of goods where competition is keen and there are many producers in the field.

Regulations seem more justified in areas where there are few producers, differentiated products and/or problems in information flows. Now that 30-40 percent of school going children are enrolled in private schools countrywide, and the proportion is much higher in urban areas as well as the Punjab, the argument for limited choice and concentration probably does not hold. But the argument regarding information flows still might have some weight.

Though a recent World Bank funded research paper has argued that there is evidence to suggest that the information market, even in rural areas, works reasonably well. But it is a fact that there are time lags in spread of reputation, especially when we do not have formal and specially designed channels for information flows. Here we could have reason for regulation. But this is not to say that the regulator should restrict the fees that providers can charge or monitor other policies that schools should have, it just means that we might need regulatory mechanisms, which could be private even, that facilitate the flow of authentic and credible information on quality, price, and other relevant variables.

There are other things that require attention too. For schools we need buildings that are suitable for the purpose, and are safe and secure for children. We need teachers with certain qualifications and with certain standing in the community.

Schools should have a certain minimum infrastructure and equipment. But these are all things that do not necessarily need a sector specific regulator. Building codes should take care of building requirements. Labour codes should take care of teacher benefits and information sharing should take care of qualification issues. Infrastructure and facilities issues can be tackled through better information as well. So, in many areas either regulations are not needed or the needed regulations come under the purview of different already existing laws (building codes, labour etc) and we do not need sector specific regulators for getting these implemented.

So the case of regulating private provision of schooling is much more circumscribed than it is made out to be. If we look from that perspective, the Islamabad law is quite excessive and at the same time incomplete. Strangely the law only gives power to the regulator to regulate private schools and not public ones. If we are going to have a regulator of educational providers should the regulator not have jurisdiction over every body that provides education? Would it not have been surprising to have limited NEPRA to IPPs only and exempted WAPDA from regulation? For that matter would it not have been strange to limit PTA from regulating PTCL? But this is the case in Islamabad law.

And then the ordinance clearly over-regulates. It gives power to the regulator to set limits on fees (though this power is not being used right now), to inspect schools, to interfere with terms and conditions of service of teachers, to interfere with curriculum. It also gives powers to the regulator to shut down schools if they are in violation of rules, and it can also fine as well as imprison principals of schools, for up to one year, for violations.

The principals can appeal decisions to the federal secretary education, but the decision of the education secretary is supposed to be final and the law does not even give recourse to people to invoke the high courts if they want to contest the secretary's decision. This seems draconian and even contrary to the spirit of rights provided in the constitution where every person has the right to petition the higher courts of Pakistan if he or she is not satisfied with decisions at lower judicial or any administrative level.

The officers of the regulatory authority are provided indemnity if they act in good faith in the course of regulating institutions, but principals and owners can be incarcerated if they even fail to ensure that right information is going to the regulator.

The law, as it stands, is ridiculously unjust and counter productive. What stops it from being intrusive right now is not the limitation of the law, but luckily the government has not been able to give resources to the regulator so that it is underfunded and understaffed. Had the government been more serious about regulation and operationalised the law properly, it could have had major distorting and negative impacts on the provision of private education in Islamabad area. The spirit in which the regulation has been set-up is that of control and not of facilitation and developing information flows and sharing.

Regulation, in most cases in Pakistan, whether it be PEMRA, NEPRA, OGRA, CCP, SECP, SBP, or any other organisation, it seems, is largely seen as a means of control and for imposing limits on organisations in a sector. It is true, in cases of restricted competition and other special circumstances, regulation is indeed for control, but that is not the general purpose of regulation. Regulation is a way of facilitating markets. In fact markets cannot function without regulations. Regulation is not a substitute for markets, we need regulations to complete markets and where markets can work we need to ensure we do not over regulate.
Since there is demand for regulation of private education, but private education is here to stay as the government seems to have given up on ensuring that it is able to provide good quality education to all children in Pakistan, we need to think through the need for regulation of education and we need to be judicious. Islamabad has a recent and modern law for this. This could act as an example for others. But we find this to be a poor law.

It is incomplete in some ways and clearly over-regulates in other places. The saving grace is of course that the government has been unable to operationalise it fully. We should have a comprehensive review of this law at some point soon, and think through the idea of regulation of private education in much more detail or we risk distorting this market too.

By Dr. Faisal Bari - The writer is an associate professor at LUMS and an economic analyst (The Nation)

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IJT stopped from organising admission camps at PU
Lahore: The Islami Jamiat Taleba (IJT) has not been allowed to set up admission camps on the Punjab University (PU) premises this year.

According to the PU administration, no students' group will be allowed to set up admission stalls and disciplinary action would be taken against any violators of the ban.

The move follows the opening of admissions at the PU after the announcement of intermediate and graduation results. Students from across the country were applying for various disciplines.

Prior to the ban, the IJT used to set up admission camps as a show of strength, but various varsity departments have now set up camps to help any potential student.

Hafiz Usman, a PU student, said that the IJT's campaign to attract new students was a routine matter in the past, as the PU administration had apparently been helpless to stop it from indulging in political activities.

He said that the administration had taken stern action this year, and had destroyed the admission camps set up by the IJT on the varsity premises.

Haseebur Rehman, another student, said that various commercial organisations used to sponsor the IJT's advertisement campaign to attract newcomers in the past. He said that the admission season was very important for the IJT to recruit new members into its fold. However, the organisation lost its tempo with the ban this year, he said.

Muhammad Ahsan, a student, said that the PU was the only varsity where the IJT could not be stopped from political activities despite efforts by a former vice chancellor.

"It is a good omen that the PU administration has taken a bold stance this year and banned the IJT from political activities on the varsity premises," he said.

"Though the ban on students' unions has been lifted, the government should not allow any political group to distract students from their studies," he said.

Wajahat Ali, another student, said that the IJT was short of volunteers as most of the students concentrated their efforts on their studies.

"A number of IJT activists have already been expelled from the varsity for illegal activities and the administration is not willing to re-admit them," he said, adding that most of these students feel that the IJT had spoiled their future.

IJT PU Media Secretary Imran Kiani said that the IJT had not set up any admission stalls this year, but its workers were ready to guide the students.

'We have not installed camps as various PU departments are not conducting entry tests this year," he said, adding that they used to set up admission stalls to guide the students in the face of difficult admission criteria.

"We work for the welfare of the students and will hold a talent award ceremony in the honours of new students this year," he added. Daily Times

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Call for PU campus in Toba Tek Singh
Toba Tek Singh: A district council meeting here on Friday demanded the establishment of a Punjab University sub-campus in Toba for the benefit post-graduate students belonging to the district.

A press release said on Friday the meeting also passed another resolution in which it also demanded start of BSc (Honours) classes on the local campus of Faisalabad Agriculture University where at present only BSc poultry science discipline was being taught.

The meeting approved the purchase of furniture worth Rs 781,500 for Sultan foundation trust school under its citizen community board programme scheme. Dawn

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