On-campus classes in schools to be suspended for grades 1-8 till April 28: Shafqat Mehmood

Federal Education Minister Shafqat Mehmood announced Tuesday that on-campus classes for students till grade 8, in districts affected the most by the coronavirus, will remain closed till April 28. 

The minister was addressing a press conference after holding an important meeting at the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) attended by all the education and health ministers to decide further on closure or reopening of schools amid the worsening coronavirus situation in the country.

“It has been decided that in districts affected by the coronavirus, physical classes will not be held [in schools of these districts] from grades 1-8 till April 28,” said Mehmood. “It must be borne in mind that not every district has been affected by the coronavirus.”

He said the Sindh government had already announced its decision of suspending on-campus classes from grades 1-8 and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa had done the same. 

The minister said consultations will be held whether these on-campus classes will remain suspended till Eid or whether they should be resumed “in some staggered way”. 

He said classes of grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be held under strict compliance of coronavirus SOPs from April 19 onwards, so that these students can complete their preparation for their upcoming exams.

“Universities in affected districts will also remain closed and classes will be held online,” he said, adding that in other districts, universities will remain open and function as normal. 

Cambridge exams to be held as per schedule

All education and health ministers are unanimous in their decision to have the O and A level examinations proceed as scheduled, said Mehmood. 

He said health and education ministers of all provinces had decided with consensus that O and A level exams should continue as per schedule. 

“These student are very less [compared to students of local education boards in Pakistan] and in our discussion with Cambridge, they assured us that coronavirus SOPs will be followed strictly,” he said, explaining the reason as to why Cambridge exams were not being delayed. 

Going over some reports, the minister said on average, 4,000 students were giving Cambridge exams in a single day. He said there were very few days when 10,000-12,000 O/A level students would give exams. 

He said this number was very small compared to the students of local boards. 

The minister clarified that Cambridge exams in Sri Lanka, Nepal and India were being held, rejecting the perception that no other countries in the region were holding O/A level exams. 

He urged students to prepare for the Cambridge exams as they will be held as per schedule. 

“These exams will be held and they will be held under strict compliance of the coronavirus SOPs,” he said. “We will monitor every school and ensure SOPs are being followed,” added the minister. 

Mehmood said last year, the government had passed students of grades 9, 10, 11 and 12 based on their performance in the previous year’s exams. 

“This time around, we don’t even have test results from the last year [due to the coronavirus],” he said. “Hence, these exams are very important and they must be held [on schedule].”

He said the education minister of Punjab had informed him that 13 districts across the province were affected by the coronavirus, hence on-campus classes will not be held there till April 28. 

He said nearly 4mn students across Pakistan give exams for 9, 10, 11 and 12 grades. “Exams for 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be held,” he said, adding that they will be shifted to the third week of May. 

“The datesheet announced by Punjab in which exams were to be held on May 4, have been shifted to May 24 onwards,” he said, adding that some exams will be held in even June and July as well. 

The minister said universities will be asked to delay their admission tests as well since exams will be held later. He directed the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and universities to come to a solution over the matter.  

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