Entry tests and inept professionals: Another nail in our education coffin

Published: October 1, 2014
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In local boards, where many students score good marks by cramming and rote memorising, there is a great amount of those as well, who pass their papers by bribing officials and examiners. PHOTO: FILE

In local boards, where many students score good marks by cramming and rote memorising, there is a great amount of those as well, who pass their papers by bribing officials and examiners. PHOTO: FILE In local boards, where many students score good marks by cramming and rote memorising, there is a great amount of those as well, who pass their papers by bribing officials and examiners. PHOTO: FILE

A few days back, I came across the news that the government is considering to end the entry test system (ECAT & MCAT) for admissions in universities. The news left me utterly dismayed.

The policy to hold these tests was implemented a few years back, to check the competency level of students coming from different educational boards. It was a good way to test individuals on similar parameters to understand their aptitude for a particular field of study and was a much-needed step.

In Punjab, there are many educational boards – almost every city has its own – and alongside these, there is the federal board that encompasses the entire country. Therefore, one can easily understand the discrepancy in the level of education as the differences between these boards are quite significant. This means that even if two students have cleared there Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSC) exams, they will not have the same level of knowledge if their education boards are different.

Each board has its own paper pattern and marking criteria and, generally, the marking criteria in the federal board is consider stricter than that of the other Punjab boards. Hence, students who have passed their federal board exams are generally considered somewhat more competent in these entry tests.

I have personally seen how most students, who achieved 85% to 90% marks in their HSC exams from different Punjab boards, were unable to score even 50% marks in their entry tests. As a result of this, many such students were unable to get admissions in good faculties like engineering or medicine.

While talking to a senior professor at the Fauji Foundation College, Rawalpindi, I got to know that before these entry tests were implemented, most of the students who got admission in medical and engineering universities were from Multan, Sahiwal and other areas of Punjab, who had studied under their local boards. The termination of entry tests can be seen as an attempt to help students, from these local boards, enter these faculties without any issues.

Though I agree that these students should also have the opportunity of entering into good professional institutions, doing so at the stake of others is not the way to go about. Why should a student, who has worked hard to get good marks in his federal board exams, not enter a good university just because another student got admitted with higher marks than him through a lesser education board?

I study in NUST and I know that one can only enter this university through a good score in the NUST entry test (NET). Many of my relatives and friends achieved more marks than me in FSc board exams from Rawalpindi and Azad Jammu and Kashmir boards but they were unable to get even 40% marks in the NET.

On the other hand one of my class fellows, who scored average marks in FSc from the federal board, is currently pursuing a degree in chemical engineering from NUST. Because his concepts were clear, he was able to score high in the NET and get a merit admission.

All seven top three-position holders of FSc (pre-medicine) exams have failed to maintain their positions in MCAT, according to a report from a website constantly visited by students for information about results and entry tests. Following are some of the students I met from different Punjab boards.

Azhar a student from Rawalpindi, secured 917 marks in his HSC exams but his MCAT marks were just 849. Another colleague of mine, Amna, secured 996 marks in the Lahore Board exams this year but her MCAT marks were just 845.

“I was shocked on my MCAT result but later on I realised that my board exams were very easy”, she said.

Both of them accepted that their board exams were far too simple; they were able to get good grades just by merely cramming and rote memorising everything because almost all the papers were based on bookish questions. Many questions were those that were already present in their course books. These questions did not test their conceptual knowledge at all.

I also met a boy who completed his HSC from federal board. He got just 880 marks in FSc (pre-engineering) but his ECAT marks were 65% and as a result, he has a good aggregate to get admission in a reputable engineering university. He acknowledges the fact that his papers were tougher and marking criteria was stricter than other boards but this prepared him for a conceptual entry test.

In local boards, where many students score good marks by cramming and rote memorising, there is a great amount of those as well, who pass their papers by bribing officials and examiners. Though this malpractice used to take place with entry tests too, the quantum of it was very low as the examiners were more credible.

I don’t understand why our government is trying to murder the merit and conceptual learning, and promote substandard education and ratta (rote memorisation) culture. We don’t have a unified educational board and as a result, we don’t have the same educational level in our country. Instead of working on eliminating all these local boards and bringing education under one umbrella, the government opted for the easy way out by terminating entry tests. These tests were a better way of judging students. This step will be a huge blow to our education system and it will result in Pakistan producing inept and under-qualified professionals in the future.

Do you think the system of entry tests should be abolished?

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Syed Minhas

Syed Minhas

A student of chemical engineering from NUST H-12 Islamabad and a critic of this so-called democracy. He tweets as @ImMini_94 (twitter.com/ImMini_94)

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

  • GAZAL

    we people lack wisdom we have became blind followers .Recommend

  • Nimra Noor

    Probably Shahbaz Sharif wants to win the support of the youth/ students by abolishing MCAT but he isn’t aware that the youth of Pakistan knows what’s better for its future very well and doesn’t find shortcuts for success!Recommend

  • Muhammad Bilal

    Good blog to prove your concepts are better than other’s.Recommend

  • Ameer Hamza

    Government trying to bribe students by luring them into universities ..Recommend

  • wsd

    In my humble opinion entry test, although a better way of testing the knowledge is an unjust method since students form cities like Lahore, ISB etc have better facilities to prepare for this exam…. On the other hand I do realize that some boards have lenient markings and their students can get undue benefit. My humble suggestion is that instead of going back to traditional system of board exams we should have multiple choice questions exam at all levels starting from 9th grade to 12th grade. 9 and 10th grade results should be aggregated for college admissions and 11th and 12th grade results should be aggregated for professional college admissions. Once we have this system at all levels it will discourage rote memorization plus improve the standards.Recommend

  • A University Teacher

    Very good reasoning.Recommend

  • Guest

    Precious thoughts of Pakistani leaders “Degree tau degree hoty hy…… ” why bother with tests and classes.Recommend

  • Moiz Omar

    This will lower our educational standards.Recommend

  • ym

    Critic of so called democracy? Maybe your concepts are still incorrect as you have not been taugt history?Recommend

  • Safiullah Talpur

    I am from the province(Sindh) which is regarded as the worst one in Pakistan from educational point of view. Seriously we are tortured by the competition in achieving good marks in board exams and mostly the students having average marks in SSC is being treated as least one and is not admitted in good collages. Unfortunately then we have to go to the government collages or pay huge casts in private collages for admission. Now what a middle class person should do? or is good education right of just upper class peoples?Recommend

  • @arhaziz

    But even these entry tests borrow EXTENSIVELY from FSc, seriously disadvantaging candidates from other streams, such as A-Levels etc. Maybe an overhaul should be underway.Recommend

  • Taikakhan

    Even m cat supports rutta system. A broad based study of medical students results in 1st profesional exam in comparison with their merit in admission tests should be compared. Entry tests should always include aptitude testing questions as well not just questions from a given course.Recommend

  • Aliya Khan

    Well said Syed minhasRecommend

  • http://www.seoweblinks.net/ Hafiz Faheem Altaf

    It should continue, i think we should have board exam system like this so our kids can have better understandings what they are reading, just memorizing all of it is not a fruitful idea.

    I want to suggest a site here which is helping students find their way
    to success in the education: Entry Test PreparationRecommend

  • http://zahanat.com Asma Shahzadi

    Education should have some standards.Recommend

  • Naila Masood

    What about O & A level students who get more %age, even then there is deduction of 10 to 15 marks and these students are down graded. At the time of entry test at Govt Institutes normally their syllabus is considered.in this way un-justice with the student of O A level at Govt level is felt.Govt should have the courage to impose ban on O A level education instead of playing with the fate of students who come up with their hard work
    If you like taking entrance tests that much then take separate tests for O A level students in which only the cambridge syllabus is included and not the syllabus of federal board so that the students are tested equally based on what they have studied in their high schoolRecommend