By Muhammad Ali Ilahi
Whilst there is a general perception that students who follow the British education system fare better than their peers who take the matriculation and FSc exams , the reality is however a lot more different. The course content of the O & A level system and the learning outcomes are undeniably superior to the local obsolete system of Metric and FSc, however the O & A level students are at a much greater disadvantage when they try to enter their respective professional fields.
The majority of O and A level students in Pakistan can’t afford the highly expensive undergraduate studies abroad, so they have no choice but to complete their graduation from Pakistan. This is where the problem arises, as most of the admissions in the public higher education institutes are heavily skewed in the favour of those following the local system. According to the most recent equivalence formula, the most marks a student of the Cambridge system can secure is 90% and that too in the case he gets A*’s in all the subjects he sits in. The entrance examination for the medical colleges (MCAT) and engineering colleges are entirely based on the FSc syllabus and these students have a hard time securing good marks in these tests. Furthermore, the merit list for the top public medical colleges in Punjab starts at around 91% and closes at 86%. This makes it virtually impossible for the O/A students to secure admissions here and they are forced to seek admissions in the highly expensive private sector.
Most of these students have only a limited choices available in the private sector, as LUMS, IBA and AKU are considered top notch institutions whereas others are considered as the infamous ‘Backup Options’. Also, the dates of the admissions are such that students have to keep fighting an uphill battle against time, clearing their SAT exams, sitting for the AKU test, giving their A level finals, while at the same time preparing for the Medical and Engineering entrance exams.
According to the most recent available data, around 200,000 students appeared in O/A level exams in 2013 which constituted around 3% of the total students sitting for their SSC and HSC examinations in the country. A majority of these students would have to stay here in Pakistan, and become part of the thriving private education sector where they would have to pay hefty fees for a degree that has a worth less than that of a public or top private institution. This leads to the parents of these students who are in essence a product of a much superior education system to pay large amounts of money for higher education degrees that have little to offer.
The private universities require the chosen candidates to pay a year’s fee in advance, and parents are normally not willing to risk that secure position and turn the offer down & wait for the results from the public sector institutions. Thus all of this has lead to a massive money making mafia, where private educational institutions force parents to pay large sums of money for securing admissions. Unless the higher education authorities in the country streamline the process and make sure that all tests and their results are delivered within a specified time frame, the parents and the students would continue to get exploited at the hands of the private education mafia.