A-level admission woes
As if the accelerating school fee rates were not enough, A-level admission
seekers are required to pay exorbitant amounts enough to burn a hole in any
pocket. The rates vary from around Rs60,000 to Rs95,000 for good reputable
institutions and can be a lot more for some others. Contrary to previous belief
that only the upper-middle class could afford the luxury of studying in such
fine institutions, even they now struggle to make ends meet while granting their
children such education.
Ironically, the huge amounts of admission fees
are not just paid by students who are acquiring admissions in a different
school. In fact, certain schools even require their own O-level students to pay
up if they want to pursue A-levels from the same school.
agonize the parents, the dates on which the admission lists are put up are such
that at times they feel trapped. If a certain school puts up its list on a
certain date, it would require its entrants to pay the entire admission package
and hence confirm their admission before the date on which another school might
be releasing its list of students. This puts those students, who get calls from
their backup schools before the list of the school they actually want to go to
is put up, in a difficult position.
If the student pays the fee to the
first school while awaiting response from the second one and is consequently
granted admission there too, he/she is in a fix. The first school does not
refund the admission fees and paying the fees for two schools falls heavy on
most people's pockets.
Halima, who currently seeks admission for her
A-levels says, "While awaiting a call from the school that I actually wanted to
go to, I got accepted in another school as well and was asked to confirm my
admission within a few hours. I didn't really want to go there but there was
this constant doubt of not getting into my first-priority school. I even
considered paying the fees for it to be on the safe side."
to a senior administration member at a private school that offers A-levels, she
said that this can only be dealt with collectively by all A-level schools in the
city. She says, "If everyone gets together and decides to release their
admission lists on the same date, the problem can easily be
After paying such huge amounts of fees, one would at least
expect to be able to freely choose the subjects that he/she studies during
A-levels. But even here the issues are numerous; most schools have various
groupings of subjects and the students get to pick their group rather than
individual subjects. This means that it is highly likely that students don't
find the groups catering precisely to the subjects they want. Many times out of
the four subjects in the group, there is at least one that the student is forced
to take only because it is in the group that has the rest of the subjects that
he/she may want.
Sara, who is just starting her A-levels at one of the
most elite schools in Karachi faces a similar problem. She says, "I wanted to
study Arts, Physics, Maths and World History. But the most appropriate group
that I managed to find was one that offered Arts, Physics, World History and
Economics. So now I have no choice but to study Economics, which is a subject I
don't want and then privately study Maths as an extra subject."
the flip side, Mrs Chishty Mujahid, head mistress of Karachi Grammar School's
A-level section says, "We cannot increase our blocks (of subject combinations)
unless we can get excellent teachers to cater for them."
She also says
that they need to keep a check on the number of students that they admit in each
class to avoid an overload of students, especially in the science labs, where it
can even prove to be hazardous.
Contrary to many people's believes,
O-level exams are not necessarily only taken through the Cambridge University,
but also through London University and Oxford University. Most schools in
Karachi are affiliated with the Cambridge University so they make their plans
for the admission processing in accordance with the schedule of Cambridge
University. Nevertheless, there are also those students, though in limited
number, who appear in the exams through other university affiliations and get
their results at slightly later dates.
Meanwhile, admission processes are
in full swing while most well-reputed schools may even have reached their
deadline dates before those results are out. Hence they sometimes miss out on
opportunities that they might have been able to benefit from, had the schools
kept in mind the result dates of examination boards other than the one that they
are themselves affiliated to.
Natasha Khan, a student who faced dire
problems because of this says, "I didn't do my O-levels from Karachi so I took
my exams through the London University Board unlike most Karachi students who
opt for the Cambridge University Board. Hence my result came a few days later
than the rest and by then most schools wouldn't even let me apply."
schools that wish to assure that their well scoring O-level students continue to
do their A-levels from the same institution keep delaying the students'
recommendations for other schools. And due to the incomplete documents, they are
denied admissions elsewhere and have no choice but to stay in the same school
for their A-levels.
A high-achieving student who just got her O-level
result with nine A's says, "I had given an application for my recommendation way
back in April but the school kept delaying it. Finally, they agreed to give it
to me on the day of the O-level results but faltered back on their words again.
They insisted that unless I applied to the same school for my A-levels, they
wouldn't give it to me and with my grades I knew I could do much better.
Finally, after putting much pressure, they gave it to me at the last minute and
I applied elsewhere just in time."
A certain well-known school with
branches spread all over Pakistan actually resorted to withholding its students'
results for some time to discourage them from applying elsewhere. A former
student of that school, Suhaib says, "They tried persuading us to pay the fee
for our A-levels in the same school before handing over our results to us so
that we wouldn't be able to join elsewhere."
Rather than resorting to
such lowly tactics to secure the best possible students or in some cases just a
large number of students, these schools should try implementing other changes
that would make them more appealing.
Despite all the difficulties
involved in the process, most of us insist on following the same system of
education. In fact we strive even harder to attain admissions in those very
schools about which we complain so much. But one cannot be blamed for making
such a choice as there are not many alternatives; all those institutions that
offer A-levels and have a considerable standing in the market are the ones that
thrive on such practices. Hence students looking for a good reputable A-level
school don't have much choice. So whether we love the system or despise it, we
all end up advocating it because at the time of admission the situation is so
desperate that one cannot bring him/herself to raise issues on such apparently
By Amena Jafri
* Certain students' names have been changed to protect privacy (Dawn)
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|Updated: 14 Oct, 2014|