The Covid-19 pandemic has drastically altered everyone’s life. In the early stages of the pandemic, when the existence of the coronavirus was still uncertain, most of the institutions agreed that interactions between them should be avoided and their campuses should be closed down temporarily.
For several, higher education institutions, who are having higher literacy rates, including Queen’s University Belfast, Ireland, and Australia’s Monash University, this culminated in the termination of the upcoming exams. They believed that without a better understanding of how the coronavirus circulated and the most appropriate approaches to avoid its dissemination, gathering students into one room for a longer period was no longer considered safe.
Taking this outbreak in mind, the Government of Pakistan agreed with HEC that no examination program for 2020, for this all-educational institutes would have promoted students to the next class without performing examinations except based on marks obtained in the internal evaluation and prior examinations.
Next year, 2021, the Government of Pakistan declared that it will conduct the 2021 academic year exams and that no student will be promoted to the next grade without the tests.This spark was ignited when the administration of the respective universities agreed to conduct on-campus exams at the reopening of the universities on 1 February 2021.This news has spread throughout the country like fire since last week and a flood of student protests against the examinations on campus. The demand of the student “#StudentsRejectOnCampusExams” has been exploited for the past couple of weeks by social media and has been a top topic on Twitter trend in Pakistan for the past two weeks.
The protest series began with a random social media call from a group of students. On 21 January, a group of those students planned to physically organize a demonstration in Islamabad. They emphasized that the exams were already notified on a campus that was not feasible because the program was not fully finished. Protestors said that they had obtained online classes in the last semester from Pakistani universities. Since the internet and electricity are not accessible in large parts of Pakistan, many students who have come from remote areas may not even attend these low-quality online courses. They further elaborated that they were running online classes in the last half of the year by the universities in Pakistan. They earned all their fees for this but offered the students no amenities such as WIFI, electricity, printers, laptops, etc. During the online courses, the standard of education was incredibly poor as educational institutions had not taken the trouble to take action to express their teaching skills and to improve modern methods. Hundreds of pupils at different schools in the city have been demonstrating against the decision to hold on-campus exams under the slogan “Justice for the Students” in the last two weeks. After the Punjab Police beat students protesting at on-campus Lahore exercises, several injuries were reported on Monday.
Following the Monday incident, Federal Minister of Education, Shafqat Mahmood tweeted “This is a decision for the universities to make, but I have asked HEC to consult VCs and see if it is possible (to hold online exams) given special circumstances this year.”
In a released today 27thJanuary, the HEC confirmed that it had “taken note of the concerns raised by students of some universities that their examinations should be conducted online”
The Council said the vice-Chancellors of all the provinces and regions had been briefed on their issues. The Higher Education body refers its Guidelines on Evaluation and Examination that it has “allowed universities to use their flexibility to administer exams, either on-campus or online as long as the chosen mode provides a fair assessment of students’ performance “HEC explained in depth that online assessments might be carried out if ‘Open Book evaluations’ are conducted in varsities or if a vigilance scheme has been implemented in a controlled setting. In the online mode of choice, varsities must also search “similarity index with the web and their answers” according to the guidelines. However, the HEC explained that “strict adherence with all Covid-19 health and safety guidelines” should be carried out on-campus exams only.
Education in Pakistan was never a priority. In recent decades, it earned a modest 3-4 percent of the state budget on an ongoing basis. About 60% of the population in Pakistan are out-of-school. Women’s affects more than 70% of the population. Many who are fortunate enough to go to school leave mainly in elementary education and can receive university education only in a very limited number. Unfortunately, when the current status of your education system is t so vulnerable. What is occurring also is that the unrest is creating fear in people, especially children, and their families. The unfortunate thing about the protests is that they can turn ugly. If the wrong people are attracted to them, people can be hurt, especially those of another color who become victims of crimes committed destroying or damaging their businesses, suffering injuries, and even causing the death of innocent people. As well as, this new surge represents only the anger of the students that has been brewing for decades. It’s just the beginning of the beginning. On the surface, the objection of the students to the decision to investigate on-campus can seem like a minor concern. However, it does not decide to educate students after the COVID-19 pandemic epidemic in Pakistan. It also reveals a history. The government firstly agreed that colleges would be shut down, reopened, and closed; and that online courses would be launched without facilities and instructors.