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

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • citizen

    Very good write up . British council is indeed becoming money making machine . Same goes for all foreign qualifications who have local offices like ACCA , CIMA etc. They provide zero support and charge hefty pounds which all go in their pockets. shame . There is no body to punish these thieves .Recommend

  • Daniyal

    I hope you are not venting your anger. What were your grades? Lol.Recommend

  • Indi

    Welcome to the adult world…you have many more queues to wait and sweat in,at universities,govt.offices,consulates,airports etc.In a few years, you’ll have people waiting in queues to meet you you.
    All the best for your future and studies.Recommend

  • Sane

    @Writer

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

    For British Council and most of the private educational institutions in Pakistan Education is purely a business and students and parents are cows to be milked till instead milk, blood is sucked.Recommend

  • littlegiant

    Quality education and customer service is their stated mission – just like L’oriel ‘you’re worth it’ or nike’s creating high athletic performance ‘just do it’ or NYTimes ‘all the news that’s fit to print’.
    British council’s education business makes money for the entity and yes that’s why they are there – people working are not volunteering or working for for our free service. I guess ‘business’ wasn’t taught in A-levels as one of the subjects!
    Yes, good business means good customer service and perhaps they are not doing that anymore. But given the lackluster competition in Pakistan in education, I think they are fine to be sloppy because their ‘customers’ and their parents aren’t going anywhere else!Recommend

  • Tooba Khalid

    @Daniyal:
    AAB and I go into IBA .MashaAllah. Grades have nothing to do with this blog! Something I observed,zero exxageration. It was a sad scenario.Recommend

  • Gingo

    If you don’t like or can’t afford CIE simply don’t opt for that system of education.Recommend

  • Ali Jan

    Tooba is from IBA Karachi not IoBM. IBA ftw!!Recommend

  • http://about.me/goharali Gohar

    Education, with no exceptions whatsoever, has become an industry. A lucrative business by all means but the narrative depicts a meltdown in the making. The British Council and the likes should counsel people in the service delivery chain to console customers sumptuously. Recommend

  • Ali

    Mammi Daddi bacha’s first real life trip, welcome to the real world and Good Luck.Recommend

  • Deep

    I have a question for my Pakistani friends, does not Pakistan have any national level education board like ICSE or CBSE in India to conduct tests in 10 and 12 th level in schools?Recommend

  • Muhammad A Chaudhry

    Well Tooba it seems you are not familiar enough with the British education system, it is a lot about money if not all about money. The university fees went up from around £10,000 for a three years degree to £30,000 and that is for local students not oversees students. Laissez-faire is the policy in countries like Pakistan, as long as people are willing to pay they will be exploited and there are a lot of people willing to pay in Pakistan.Recommend

  • Rumormonger

    When people appear in O and A levels to set records in Pakistan, why would not CIE and BC not exploit the innocence of our young people and their misguided parents. Its a capitalist society after all.Recommend

  • Salman

    To be honest with writer we cant blame the British council for the money making thing.
    Firstly they charge something like 120 pounds for IELTS which if you convert turn out to be around 17,000 rupees which is quite a lot for us in Pakistan but its much cheaper to what you see in UK for all the courses.A simple course will cost you 300 pounds minimum in UK. As for the line, My experience in Uk has shown that people here make their own lines themselves, nobody asks them to make.They wait for hours but don’t break line and what happens in Pakistan, which pretty much would have happened here as well that people started shouting after just few mins of waiting. Fault lies in us but we never admit it as a nation thas why we are where we were 60 yrs ago.Recommend

  • Jawaid

    They have always been that way since my days back in the early 90’s. Just that they got worse.Recommend

  • Sall90

    Sad to see that many likes are still living “Ingrezoon ke ghulaam”. They ruled and left, but we are still running after them. There are alternate institutes with great local minds to get the competitive education.Recommend

  • Lal Kurti

    Like someone said before ..Beggars cannot choose..Pakistan is broke and everyone ..Including the Former East Pakistanis have become too cool to talk to us properly.. Recommend

  • Malik

    @Ali: Recommend

  • Ali

    Many British firms and government offices are following the same footsteps. Engineering University fees for international students can be as high as £25,000 for a year here and on top of that, Home Office is now considering charging £100 yearly for students hospital fees!

    This is not it, but many hospitals accidents and emergency wards are being closed because of lack of funds!

    These kind of things happen when the priorities are not fixed. Current British government is still keen to give donation to India and pay for war but not willing to fix the problems in their back garden!Recommend

  • http://lifebyusman.blogspot.com -bin-Ahmed

    Perfectly sketched scenario! I myself was in the room for one hour though but I guess it was more than enough to give the idea that it’d have taken ’em a week or so to distribute that amount of certificate at the speed they were doing! that woman collapsed just infront of me and the chaos and tension that build up in the hired personell was just clearly visible…all in all I’d say it was a hunch played by them just to see if they can save on TCS money this time and next time which failed badly because the reason of poor handling they gave was not firmone as our SOEs and the confidential username and password document were also delivered to us via same service…if something wwas to happen it should’ve happened before !!Recommend

  • Kappa

    Amazing, Pakistanis are still following British to get education.Recommend

  • Nabeel

    I did my O/A levels exactly a decade back…i am shocked to read this. Back in those days the only problem was that a lotta new small schools started sprouting up all providing O level education (seemed like there were no registration criteria for such schools except for money)…but over the last 10 yrs the amount of exam related scandals and issues that have come up in the news, are shocking…Recommend

  • Gap

    OK….Sad to hear you are still being humiliated by your coloniolists in your own country.Recommend

  • Fahad

    Well welcome abroad and believe me this is like heaven as compared to Federal and pindi board.At least they ask you to leave nicely :PRecommend

  • Viceroy of India

    British Education is the best. Recommend

  • http://ayaz ayaz hussain

    so did you finally get your certificate ???Recommend

  • Tooba Khalid

    @ayaz hussain: Nope. Have not received it yet!Recommend

  • Tia

    Why has this been made a debate about the writer’s grades? Or about how she needs to step into real life? Only the one who undergoes something like this knows how arduous and painful it is and no matter what stage of life you’re in, it’s always the same.
    As for the Brit. C they truly are money making machines! If you get the results right the first time around you’re actually quite fortunate! However, the syllabus is as far as their contribution towards quality education goes. The education being imparted is in the hands of Pakistani teachers who, quite honestly, are not even worth it.
    Having said that, I do wish that the Pakistani education system undergoes some very necessary changes so we can get rid of this O/A level system. Wish I can be one of those who can be part of the change!Recommend

  • Atif

    Pakistan has not put any effort into improving it’s own high school system and has resorted to importing an “obsolete” version of the British GCE A-levels/O-levels.

    Statistically, Pakistan is CIE’s largest market as well.

    this is just a step forward for the country in losing its national identify and then people question why is Pakistan losing it’s cultural integrity. International high school systems should be limited to international schools only.

    Time to wake up and improve the local system and limit this O/A-Level system. Recommend

  • Sane

    @Ali Jan:

    Which institute this IoBM is? Is that among those mushroom institutes which are found on every road and street?Recommend

  • Saad Ali Faizi

    Sorry, but this post is quite exaggerated. Although it is true that O and A levels have become money making businesses rather than education systems, but the blog seems to have overstated the whole scenario. I also received an email to collect my result but when I told them that it is not possible for me to collect on the told time time, they accepted my condone and sent the result to the address I had given. Recommend

  • Usman

    I am surprised that there was no physical violence. The situation you are describing is worse than passport office and NADRA offices. Even they have order!

    And I assume you were a private candidate.Recommend