By our correspondent
KARACHI: The Aga Khan University (AKU) and USAID on Wednesday signed an agreement for a grant of $4.5 million to AKU for establishing the country's first private examination board.
The agreement signed by President AKU Shamsh Kassim-Lakha and US Ambassador Nancy Powell on behalf of AKU and USAID respectively was also attended by Federal Education Minister Zubaida Jalal and Sindh Education Minister Irfanullah Marwat, held at Aga Khan University and others.
While, Dr Thomas Christie, former dean, Faculty of Education, University of Manchester was appointed as the first Director of AKU-EB.
AKU's Board of Trustees in 1999 had approved the recommendation of setting up an examination board in the private sector, which was later approved in November 2002 through an ordinance of the federal government.
A document prepared by AKU said that the AKU-Examination Board (AKU-EB) would provide students of government schools in the federal capital territory, federally administrated tribal areas and Northern Areas as well as cantonment areas an opportunity to offer SSC and HSC exams, while students of private schools throughout Pakistan could also avail the examining facility by the new board.
The ordinance also provides that AKU-EB could expand its examination services to government schools in the provinces subject to approval of the respective provincial governments.
It further carries the provision of inclusion of the heads of the Inter-Board Committee of Chairmen (IBCC) and AKU-EB as members of both bodies respectively.
Starting operations in July 2003, the AKU-EB is expected to conduct its first SSC exams in the summer of 2006 and HSC exams in 2008. It was further learnt through reliable sources that AKU-EB would offer SSC and HSC-level exams based on the approved national curriculum already taught at matriculation and intermediate-level classes in government and private schools and colleges.
Addressing the occasion, Zobaida Jalal said that for many years, acute problems of transparency, repetitious nature of exam had been leading to the decline of quality in education.
She urged the AKU authorities to pay particular attention to issues of equity in society for larger public interests, as she viewed that the exam fee set by AKU-EB might not be affordable to many households.
The federal minister expressed hope that the functioning of AKU-EB would spur the existing education boards to upgrade their systems.
Also addressing, US Ambassador Nancy Powell expressed optimism in the establishment of the AKU-EB and said that it would assist in meeting the objectives of an improved and wider access to elementary and secondary education in the country. Besides, she said that it would also provid a new opportunity for improving the standard of education and learning in Pakistan.
According to her, the objectives of AKU-EB also included implementing some of the important principles of education reforms in Pakistan like stressing on teacher training and follow-up programmes for students.
The US ambassador, commending the teachers' training and development, educational research and school improvement programmes conducted and offered at AKU's Institute for Educational Development said that the AKU was capable to develop and function an independent examination board in the country.
Also speaking, AKU President Dr Lakha said that signing of the agreement for establishing an exam board was yet another example between Aga Khan Development Network and USAID in their respective efforts to improve the quality of life of people in many developing countries.
He also conveyed warm appreciation to President Pervez Musharraf and his administration for granting approval to the AKU-EB.
" The critical aspects of the examination board are its focus on comprehension, its consideration of accessibility through affordable cost to students and parents, its painstaking attention to transparency and most of all, its alignment with the national curriculum and objectives by offering secondary, higher secondary school certificate examinations both in Urdu and English," he remarked.
US Consul General in Karachi Douglas C Rohn, USAID Country Director for Pakistan Mark Ward, Provincial Minister for Women Development Dr Saeeda Malik, Chairman, AKU Board of Trustees Saidullah Khan Dehlavi, Provincial Secretary Education Ghulam Ali Pasha were also present.