Proportionate Representation of A-Level Syllabus in Pakistani Universities' Entry Tests

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Majority of the Universities within Pakistan base their criteria of admissions from entry tests. These entry-tests are known to cater students from the FSC/Intermediate stream, which is one of the education systems offered in Pakistan, while neglecting Cambridge A-Levels which is another system of education.

Every year, thousands of students find themselves at a significant disadvantage when they complete their A-Level exams, and appear for entry tests in Pakistani Universities. They are given less than a month to cover the pattern, syllabus and intricacies of the FSC/Matriculation system as majority of the entry tests are based on that. This automatically puts them in a very disadvantaged situation and directly leads many of them to take a gap year in order to prepare for these entry tests. It should be known that the Cambridge system already takes one more year to complete (5 years for O/A Levels as compared to 4 years for Matric/Fsc). 

Furthermore, it is extremely difficult for A-Levels students to prepare for these exams in the required time for a number of reasons. Firstly, A-Level exams are conducted from May till June. There is a certain level of fatigue involved when students face the challenge of learning new material and acclimatizing themselves for a different pattern. Secondly, the content of many topics within the FSC syllabus is unfamiliar territory for A-Level students. Expecting them to learn these concepts even through rote learning is impractical and unfair. Thirdly, the entry-test patterns for universities vary with one another, and unless the student attends academies or tuitions specifically for these tests, it becomes difficult for them to attempt these tests. All of these factors intensify when you realize that majority of these attempts are one-time chances to get into a university, and the only option left is to take a gap year which itself is frowned upon in many households. 

Another important topic when it comes to unfair representation and treatment of A Levels students is the lack of wholistic evaluation by these Universities. Many O/A Levels students spend a considerable amount of time building a 'portfolio' which includes extra-curricular activities (drama, debates, sports, arts). It is completely disregarded by these Universities and their criteria of admission solely relies on the entry-test and marks/grades achieved in FSC/Matric/O/A Levels. This is incredibly discouraging for students who spend extra time polishing their extra-curricular skill-sets, bringing home international and national awards. The incentive to achieve more becomes completely non-existent and unproductive. A student's future should not only be determined by academics but also by the skill sets acquired outside the classroom. 

The Higher Education Commission of Pakistan has the responsibility to take steps which provide A-Levels students a fair platform to compete with FSC students. This problem has become even more apparent as the number of A-Level graduates rises. It is unproductive for the society at large as students cannot begin their under-graduate degrees straight out of college and many have to settle for less competitive universities or even take a year off. Moreover, this also intensifies the issue of brain-drain as many students, who do not find themselves adequately catered, become interested in pursuing education abroad which for the majority is next to impossible and riddled with financial sacrifices from parents. 



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