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ISLAMABAD: Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mehmood, Tuesday, announced closing down all the schools from class 1 to 08 till April 28 in the coronavirus-affected districts to protect the children from the “third wave” of the Covid-19.

Addressing the press conference here, after a meeting of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC), the minister said that the classes from grade 09 to 12 will resume on April 19 under strict coronavirus Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs).

Mehmood said that the NCOC meeting was attended by all the provincial education and health ministers who discussed two-point agenda, one, to decide the fate of educational institutes that were closed till April 11, and second, to decide examination schedule.

The minister further said that there were two types of exams i.e. international exams such as O and A levels, and national-level exams.

He said that around four million students of 30 educational boards of the country would appear in the matriculation and intermediate-level exams; therefore, it has been decided to start these exams in the 3rd week of May under strict SOPs.

There are only around 85,000 students from all over Pakistan who are sitting for the A, AS and O Levels examinations, compared to four million students sitting for local board exams, the minister noted.

He advised the students to focus on studies instead of diverting their attention on rumours being spread by certain elements regarding the cancellation of examinations.

He said the number of O and A levels students in Pakistan was only 85,000 and all ministers unanimously decided to hold Cambridge exams as per schedule.

He also said that Cambridge pledged to ensure strict SOPs while holding its exams.

The minister said that given the comparatively lower number of students impacted, and the fact that the government has no authority over the Cambridge examinations board, health and education officials from all the four provinces and the federation had unanimously decided that there would be no change in the O and AS/A Level exams schedule this year, nor would the exams be cancelled in favour of predicted grades.

Further explaining the Cambridge exams, Mehmood said the number of students to be appeared in its first examination is 4,000, therefore, there will be no problem to hold Cambridge examinations while implementing Covid-19 SOPs.

Responding a query regarding exams, the minister said that all regional countries except Bangladesh were taking their exams; adding, around 80 percent countries in the world were holdings exams.

He urged the students to focus on their exam preparations as it is a confirmed decision.

“All education ministers had demanded to hold examinations for students’ bright future,” he remarked.

Mehmood said that according to the education minister Punjab as many as 13 districts were affected and there will be no classes till April 28.

However, he said, Sindh had already decided to halt classes from grade 1-8.

Similarly, other provinces would also decide their most-affected districts and halt all kinds of education till April 28th.

As per the decisions taken in the NCOC meeting, the universities in the affected districts had been asked to continue online classes till next decision, while in other districts, the universities would continue their classes as per routine, he added.

“A further review to be made on April 28 in which it will be decided that staggered classes should continue or halt them till Eid,” he mentioned.

Mahmood said that from grade 9 to12 the staggered classes will be resumed from April 19 for preparation of their exams.

The universities had also been recommended to extend the date of exams and physical classes in affected districts, he said, adding that the Higher Education Commission will decide in that regard with consultation of other stakeholders.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2021

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