A Pakistani Student giving his O/A level test

August 10, 2020, at 10:00 am Pakistan Standard Time, thousands of hearts were broken and a thousand dreams shattered as the Cambridge International Assessment Examinations (CAIE) – formerly CIE – graded their O and A level students in what can be described as the worst possible way. Students expecting straight As got straight Cs and the mediocre ones got Us. How did this happen? Did they change their grading criteria? Did they not consider the evidence schools had provided?

What actually happened?

As per the statement released by the officials on their website; the CAIE had requested teachers to make rank orders for their respective candidates and then used those rank orders for standardization and hence awarding grades. This sounds pretty simple and justified, however the real talk begins now; imagine a class of 10 students providing almost the same evidence to their teachers. Very minute differences will push an unlucky one to the 10th rank and a lucky one to the top of the list, thus making existing competition even more callous.

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Students launch mass protests across the country

In times of utter confusion and disappointment, the students managed to stand up for themselves. Many successfully organized protests in major cities like Lahore, Islamabad, Karachi and Multan while following all the SOPs in these times of uncertainty. More reached out to social media influencers like Waqar Zaka to bring the issue to the government’s attention. They were successful to take the Federal Minister for Education, Shafqat Mahmood, in confidence. He contacted the CAIE management and has promised the students that he’d fight for them until they are served justice. On August 18 the Education Minister announced he had great news for students and that CAIE has decided that grades for June 2020 would not be less than the grades predicted by the schools and also students who were awarded higher grades than their predicted grades will have their grades unchanged.

The long term effects

Regardless of the decision, it is very clear that students will have to put up with a lot more than just messed up grades. Deserving O level students might not be able to secure scholarships at reputable A level colleges, putting their academic careers at a risk. A Level students, on the other hand, might not be able to fulfill the conditional offers from their respective universities. Apart from that, online studies have made it challenging for students to keep a track of their studies due to the ongoing pandemic. Students are not sure of where they stand academically at this point. It is also a stated fact that online classrooms do not offer the same learning environment as physical classrooms, thus attention and interest of students is very limited. This would prove to be a greater issue in the near future when students are not able to excel in studies due to a weaker base and concepts.

It is no doubt students suffered due to a poor grading system used by CAIE, but the real question lies as to what next?

It is a universal truth that only the fittest can survive stimulating situations, those who are not quick to devise a plan and follow a strategy are sure to slack behind.

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