Have the British Council and CIE become moneymaking machines?

Published: September 5, 2013
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If the exam body doesn't mend its ways soon and start giving education and it's students the required priority, ‘money making machine’ is the new title it will inherit. PHOTO: FILE

Recently, the British Council of Pakistan dropped an email saying that I was required to visit its office to collect my Cambridge International Examination (CIE) certificate. As the scheduled time clashed with my university hours, it was almost impossible for me to go myself. However, when my mom called the office to ask if she could come and collect it for me instead, the person answering the phone said,

“No. Your daughter will have to come and collect it herself. We need her identification card. We are not dispatching the results this year.”

I had no choice; I direly needed my result certificate. Submitting it was a requirement for my university and I was supposed to submit it within a week with my enrollment form — so I had little choice but to go and collect my result certificate.

As I arrived at the Regent Plaza Hotel, which was the intimated venue, I was surprised to see that there were no boards or signs to guide me as to where to go or what to do next. I ended up in a noisy room full of parents and students. Something seemed really wrong there.

I asked a waiter to guide me to the room where CIE results were being handed out. He replied,

“Ma’am aap dusre kamre main jaen, ye line wahan end hoti hai, line mai lag jaen.” 

(Ma’am, go to the next room, this line ends there, join the line.)

I struggled my way into this ‘line’ (read: crowd). People here were waiting before me to collect their results, and, my goodness, the sight of the rush there made me claustrophobic! There was absolutely no line, no management and no order. Everybody looked angry and frustrated.

After waiting for over an hour, I made it to the next room and slowly, the line proceeded. Finally, I reached the room where the results were being dispatched.

As if taking the exam wasn’t stressful enough, even acquiring the dreaded result was now to become a task!

Just the sight of the room gave me a fright. There were more than a 100 kids in the room, which measured less than 50 square yards.  The space reeked of sweat as there were no fans or ventilation. People were shouting and complaining. Everybody seemed miserable. The father of one of the students yelled,

“What are you guys doing? You money making machines! You charge so much to register students for each subject and this is what we get?”

A British Council representative tried to defend the management, but failed, and the discussion soon turned into a fight. Students began leaving the room. I even saw kids mishandling result sheets as only three people were tasked with managing this huge crowd of kids. The utter chaos and confusion lasted about two hours and soon enough, another parent, a mother, started shouting in agitation.

In the disarray, one of the British Council officials told everyone to leave the room, so as to discuss how they could proceed. The remaining crowd was then told by the officials to leave the venue, and that the results would be dispatched to them later. Everybody started leaving and soon the whole floor was cleared. While waiting for a friend, I overheard a woman say,

“The British Council and CIE are not working to spread good quality education anymore; all they want is money! Moneymaking machines.”

Hearing the term “money making machines” being used for the British Council for the second time that morning made me ponder a bit. Is that really the case here? I know good quality education and high customer satisfaction was the unique selling point of British Council — but is all that a fallacy? If the exam body doesn’t mend its ways soon and start giving education and it’s students the required priority, ‘money making machine’ is the new title it will inherit. And believe me, the consequences won’t be pleasant.

Education is not a business and the students are not cows that can be milked like this!

Tooba Khalid

Tooba Khalid

A freshman at the Institute of Business Administration (IBA) who enjoys cooking, blogging, acting and is also an artist. She works with IEARN Pakistan and tweets @ToobaK94 twitter.com/ToobaK94

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