A very comprehensive and elaborate exercise was conducted during 1998 by a task force of experts, involving all stakeholders, which formulated a strategy for revamping the examination system. After its approval by the then provincial government of the PML-N, it was adopted in all boards of intermediate and secondary education in Punjab. The major reformatory measures taken therein included a mechanism for bringing about uniformity and credibility of assessment in public examinations through setting up questions of equal weightage; credible and secure conduct of examination in examination centres; effective and efficacious means for retrieval of answer books; affixing fictitious numbers on scripts for anonymity; inter-board distribution of scripts for evaluation; appointment of competent staff for equitable evaluation; centralised marking of scripts; random sample checking of scripts for verification of quality assessment; equality of standards and procedures of all the boards in Punjab and establishment of bodies for overseeing and monitoring the working of the examining bodies on a continuous basis etc.

Implementation of the scheme in all boards in Punjab brought about a radical improvement in the shape of reduction in number of unfair means cases to a negligible level; lowering of disparity in the pass percentages of the boards; marked improvement in the teaching-learning process in institutions expressed through uniformity of students grades in various subjects and higher pass percentages over the previous years and reduction in the number of appeals, re-appeals and litigation cases against awards and penalties by the boards in the Punjab.

The reformatory measures continued during Pervez Musharraf’s period and survived till now in more or less in their true form. Unfortunately, since these additions were not properly tried out and were enforced in all boards in one go, these could not work and resulted into the disaster of the previous year. The distribution of scripts between boards was conceived to avoid marking of scripts of the candidates within the parent board so that possibility of approaching the examiner for any unethical gain could be avoided. Awarding anonymity to scripts and their centralised marking were contributory measures to eliminate the element of contact with the examiner. The proposed measure of discontinuing this practice may save some money, but its execution would have a devastating effect on the very basis on which the entire plan was devised.

Dr Ejaz Ahmad Qureshi,

Lahore, October 30.