Classes 9 to 12 will resume from April 19 across Pakistan

NCOC announces classes 1 to 8 will remain suspended in virus hotspots until April 28

By: News Desk      Published: 12:41 PM, 6 Apr, 2021
education classes exams
Shafqat Mahmood addresses a news conference.

The government on Tuesday announced that educational institutes will resume classes 9-12 across Pakistan from April 19 whereas classes of grade 1 to 8 will remain suspended until April 28 in districts where the Covid-19 positivity ratio is high.

Federal Minister for Education and Professional Training Shafqat Mahmood briefed the media about the decisions of the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) taken at a meeting in Islamabad chaired Shafqat Mahmood. The education and health ministers also took stock of the pandemic situation in the country.

Key decisions

- Classes 1-8 will remain suspended in affected districts till April 28

- Classes 9-12 will resume for in-person learning from April 19 across Pakistan

- Universities in areas with a high positivity ratio will remain closed for physical classes

- Punjab board exams to be shifted to third week of May

- Cambridge exams will be held as announced earlier

- Universities asked to extend entry exam dates

- Next NCOC meeting on April 28

Shafqat Mahmood said "The educational institutes will resume 9-12 classes from April 19 with strict SOPs in a staggered way even in the affected districts so that they can complete their course."

The minister said that the provincial governments will take a decision to close schools where the situation is worsening. He, however, clarified that all the board exams, including Cambridge, will be held as per the schedule announced earlier by the respective authorities.

Shafqat said that they have asked the universities to extend the dates of their admission tests whereas the higher education institutes in affected districts would continue with online classes. “A meeting will be held on April 28 to once again review the situation and see whether the primary classes should remain suspended till Eid or can be resumed,” he added.

Addressing the reporters, Shafqat Mahmood stated that two main topics were discussed during the NCOC meeting. The first was whether educational institutions that have been closed down till April 11 will continue as is or will they be opened, he added.

The second topic of discussion was the schedule for exams, he said, adding that this included exams for grade 9, 10 and 11 as well as those for O and A levels. "During today's meeting it was decided that classes for grade 1 to 8 will not be held in districts that are affected and this will go on till April 28."

For example, the Punjab education minister informed the meeting that he has 13 districts that have been affected, he said. Therefore, in these 13 districts classes for grade 1 to 8 will not require the physical presence of students, he said.

"The provinces will decide which areas are the most affected and where this will be implemented," the minister said, adding this decision will be reviewed again on April 28.

He also said that classes for grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be allowed to resume from April 19 with strict standard operating procedures (SOPs). "This means that classes will also resume in affected districts in a staggered manner so that students can complete their lessons and be prepared for their examinations."

Commenting on upcoming examinations, the minister said that approximately 40 lakh students across the country give the board exams. "It was decided that exams for grade 9, 10, 11 and 12 will be held, but because they are our own they will be pushed to the third week of May."

He added that the date sheet announced by Punjab would also be revised so that the coronavirus situation is under control and children have time to prepare. "All provinces and boards have given separate timetables. But nothing will happen before May 24."

Regarding A and O level examinations, the minister said that approximately 85,000 students will sit for the exams. "It was unanimously recommended to allow these exams to go forward as planned. This is because these concern a significantly smaller number of students," he said, adding that Cambridge International had assured the government of ensuring the implementation of SOPs.

The minister also dispelled the notion that Cambridge exams were not being held in other countries in the region. "That is not correct. Apart from Bangladesh, exams are being held in India, Sri Lanka, Nepal and others."

He said that data from Cambridge showed that 80 per cent of countries were having exams. "I want to repeat this [...] exams for A and O level will be held according to the date sheet. There will be no change in this."

Therefore, students should prepare for their exams and not be distracted, he advised.

He said that last year students for grade 9, 10 and 11 were passed on the grade for the previous year. "Now we don't even have that. So it is important to give the exams."

In a tweet shortly after his press conference concluded, Mahmood reiterated his advice to students and urged them to "start preparing and working hard". "Decisions regarding exams are final. This decision will not be changed so no one should have any uncertainty in their mind. Everything has been done keeping the interest of education in mind. My very best wishes to everyone," he said.

Schools and learning centres in Islamabad and several major cities of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa have been closed since March 15 in light of surging coronavirus cases.

The decision on closures during the third wave of the virus was first taken on March 10 by the NCOC, when it was decided that educational institutions in 10 major cities, including Islamabad, will be given a two-week spring break from March 15 to March 28.