A great school,"will educate its students not merely to be personally successful but also to use their gifts to build their communities and enhance the common good to levels beyond our dreams."
Aga Khan University Examination Board is a Federal Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education established by Aga Khan University in response to demand from schools for more appropriate school examinations. AKU-EB was founded in August 2003 in accordance with Ordinance CXIV of the Government of Pakistan to offer examination services for both Secondary School Certificate (SSC) and Higher Secondary School Certificate (HSSC) throughout Pakistan and abroad. It offers its qualifications both in Urdu and English medium. AKU-EB’s primary purpose is to improve the quality of education by making examinations of reputable standard more accessible to Pakistani students and having them increasingly valued by leading higher education institutions in and outside the country.
In pursuing its educational objectives, AKU-EB will:
- Provide high-quality SSC and HSSC examinations for both English and Urdu-medium schools;
- Train teachers and develop supplementary learning materials in support of the National Curriculum for secondary and higher secondary education;
- Develop expertise in educational assessment and testing in Pakistan.
In 1995, 16 private schools in Pakistan wrote to Aga Khan University to express their concern about deteriorating standards of secondary education and identified the current examination system as a major cause. They further requested AKU, being “an established educational institution of high repute in the country… to set up an examination board for holding the matric examination and awarding the Secondary School Certificate (SSC) certificates.”
At first the University was reluctant to undertake such a school-based activity, preferring to concentrate on higher education. However, following persistent requests of this type from several quarters, consultations with schools, students, educationists and policymakers confirmed that a critical weakness of Pakistan’s education system was its examination methodology, which is designed primarily as a test of memory based on a single textbook. Combined with the need for high scores to pursue advanced education, this mode of examination promotes rote learning in schools at the expense of comprehension of concepts and application of knowledge.
The poor quality of examinations has been documented in at least thirty five government reports between 1959 and 1993. One such report  states that rote learning is reinforced by the “pattern of question papers,” which in turn “defeats the basic targets of education which are acquisition, understanding and application of knowledge.” These reports also highlight the erosion of the credibility of examination results due to “large scale and unhampered cheating.”
Within Pakistan, good public and private universities are increasingly using their own entrance tests to supplement or replace results from the current examination boards while Pakistani school qualifications enjoy very little international recognition or repute. The result, as is well known, has been the rapid growth of the Cambridge ‘O’ and ‘A’ level system run from the UK. Although these examinations are generally reliable, they are very expensive and are based on a foreign curriculum.
In response to the concerns outlined above, the University's Board of Trustees in 1998, appointed a task force to assess the feasibility of an alternative examination system. The membership of the task force included representation from schools using existing public Board examinations as well as national consultants who provided insights into Government policies and national curricula . In 1999 the group recommended to the AKU Board of Trustees (AKU-BOT) the creation of an examination service as a function of the University, with its main objective being to improve the quality of education in schools throughout Pakistan.
In 2000, AKU-BOT approved the recommendation of the task force, subject to approval of the Government of Pakistan, and emphasised the principal aim as that of offering high quality public examinations using modern methods of assessment to test achievement within the national curriculum, so as to “have a significant impact on the quality of education ". Thereafter, with the encouragement of the Government of Pakistan, the University applied for recognition of the Aga Khan University Examination Board and was granted the same in November 2002 through Ordinance CXIV of 2002.
AKU-EB from the beginning was envisaged as a small undertaking which would be able to serve as a role model. In this respect it would play the same role as the University's School of Nursing and Medical College, both of which, while remaining small, are generally recognised to have had a major and wholly positive impact in their respective fields.
The concept of an examination board under the auspices of AKU was developed at least four years before funding sources of $7.3M for the programme were identified. With the approval of the Board of Trustees in 1999, the University committed to invest a portion of these funds from its own resources. With the assistance of the Government, funding possibilities were then explored with various international development agencies, including the Asian Development Bank, the UK 's DfID, the EU and Germany 's DEG, but without success. USAID was considered as a potential funding source at the point when the Government of Pakistan was entering into an agreement with the USA in 2002 by which the latter would provide support for the Government's Educational Sector Reforms throughout Pakistan. Following extensive dialogue with the Government, USAID, with the concurrence of the Government, granted Rs 270M (US$ 4.5M) in August 2003 toward the initial operational cost of AKU-EB. This is two- thirds of the total project cost of Rs 438M (US$ 7.3M), with the remaining cost of Rs 168M (US$ 2.8M) being borne by the University. After the initial start-up period of five years, the University is now solely responsible for AKU-EB's financial affairs.
Implementation of the project began in 2003 with the appointment of the first Director and staff of AKU-EB. It was not, however, until early 2004 that statements appeared in the press that claimed that all public examination boards were to come under the control of AKU-EB. The University's stance has always been clear in that it neither had any interest in, nor the capacity to pursue such an endeavour, and furthermore for which it did not in any event, have the authority. Its objectives, as set out above, would be fully served by the establishment of an examination board in the private sector. The establishment of another private board, the Askari Board, has already been announced. This and other points of concern were explained to leaders of certain political parties in June 2004 when they were also assured of AKU's objectives.
AKU-EB is unique in many ways:
- It has developed its own school support and teacher development programme.
- It has developed 37 Examination Syllabuses in both English and Urdu medium, providing every teacher a personal copy of the syllabus to be taught;
- It requires affiliated schools to make available a range of textbooks and reference reading material for active study;
- Its quality assurance officers visit every affiliated school annually to report on the maintenance of learning resources;
- It emphasises understanding and application of knowledge in problem-based questions to discourage rote learning;
- It tests the attainments of all of the objectives of the National Curriculum.
- Its examinations are based on the National Curriculum but designed in the style of O- levels.
- It has introduced e-marking (computer assisted marking) to ensure fair, transparent and trustworthy examination processes.
- Its marking schemes are context-specific and particularised to avoid undue credit to generalised and unreflective responses;
- Every individual script is marked by several markers, counteracting individual marker biases;
- Its certificates record performance in knowledge, understanding and application of skills in every subject;
It employs international facilitators to support key teachers from every affiliated school in the development of more active classroom learning materials;
Goals and Characteristics of AKU-EB
Overall objective: The general objective of AKU-EB is to design and offer high quality public examinations in English and Urdu based on the national curriculum for secondary and higher secondary education. It also arranges training sessions for teachers to develop appropriate learning materials to prepare teachers and students for the new examination system. The Board is intended to serve as a model of internationally recognised good practice in order to enhance the country's capacity for educational assessment and tests, and therefore to improve the quality of education in schools, and through them, the quality of education in the national universities.
Wider range and acceptability of skills tested: The assessment method used by AKU-EB evaluates higher intellectual abilities of comprehension, logical thinking and problem solving. As a result of our secure, valid and reliable process for national and international comparability of academic achievement, Pakistani students are increasingly able to compete on equal terms for entrance into leading academic institutions nationally and worldwide without having to opt for the 'O' and 'A' level system. Consequently, the country will evolve into a more competitive position in the global knowledge-based economy. As stated by two leading Pakistani economists in 1998, "Individuals and societies that acquire constructive learning skills grow in knowledge and progress further, realising economic and other social benefits, while those who do not, become increasingly marginal and dependent" .
Scope and voluntary nature of AKU-EB: The AKU-EB Ordinance provides for full credit and recognition of the certificates awarded for achievement up to the level of higher secondary education. Affiliation with AKU-EB is voluntary and its creation provides an additional option to students of schools controlled by the Federal Government, and also students of non-government schools throughout Pakistan and abroad. The Ordinance provides for services to provincial government schools, but subject to approval by the provincial governments.
Governance of AKU-EB: AKU-EB has a Board of Directors which includes representation from many different stakeholders, including schools, the public examination boards and the Higher Education Commission. Several senior serving and retired civil servants and educationists have accepted invitations to join the Board. The Chairman of the IBCC (Inter-Board Committee of Chairmen of the Provincial and Federal Examination Boards) is an ex officio member of the Board of Directors of AKU-EB to facilitate sharing of information on performance with other examination boards and for transparency of AKU-EB operations, while the Director of AKU-EB in turn is a member of the IBCC.
Reasonable and graded fee structure: AKU-EB qualifications are accessible to schools serving individuals from all walks of life through a graded fee system. Our fee is less than one-third of the cost for a comprehensive Cambridge 'O' Level and A' Level certificate in Pakistan, the latter's fees being about Rs 37700 for an O' level certificate and Rs 35OOO for an A' Level certificate. Consequently, students who do not wish to follow a foreign curriculum, or who cannot afford 'O' and 'A' level examinations, are able to access similar standards through the AKU-EB system.
The Way Forward
Aga Khan University Examination Board aims to maintain educational standards of a high quality by adhering to Aga Khan University 's principles of excellence in every field that it enters. It intends to restore public confidence in SSC and HSSC through the creation of a transparent and trustworthy examination system.
In a globalised world, nothing is more important than a high quality education system with internationally recognised standards. With a commitment to make examinations in Pakistan more reliable, efficient and secure, AKU-EB offers high quality public examinations using modern methods of assessment to test achievements within the national curriculum of Pakistan so as to have a significant impact on the quality of education. Current public examinations accord undue value to detailed memorisation of a single text book (rote learning). Teachers have no option but to follow suit; and much of what the child has learned from family conversations, from the wider community and from newspapers and television is ruled out as irrelevant in the classroom context. Rote learning of the text book is reinforced by the structure and style of question papers, thereby defeating the basic targets of education and of the National Curriculum, which are acquisition, understanding and application of knowledge. AKU-EB examinations make information available to the candidates and ask them to bring their ideas and understanding to analyze and expand on that information.
AKU-EB was created in response to appeals from schools, students and educationists throughout Pakistan; and after careful thought and analysis by AKU's Board of Trustees and the encouragement of the Government, its sole purpose is to improve the quality of education by making examinations of reputable standard more accessible to Pakistani students. Its assessment methods are based on the evaluation of higher comprehension capabilities, thereby increasing candidate recognition by leading higher education institutions in and outside the country. AKU-EB is a national institution and will follow in all respects, as required by law, the national curriculum. The governance of AKU, including that of its Examination Board, is predicated on wide representation from many sectors including the Government, as well as on transparency and best practices. The Government intends AKU-EB to be a national resource and one which will provide a role model for other examination boards. AKU has been working, and will continue to work, in that spirit.
AKU-EB Based Research
- Response to Establishment of Private Examination Board
- A New ICT Syllabus
- IAEA Annual Conference 2004
- IAEA Annual Conference 2005
- Public Examination Papers
Aga Khan University Examination Board
Bungalow # 233, E.I Lines,
Daudpota Road, Karachi 75530, Pakistan
Tel: +92 21 3522 4702-9; Fax: +92 21 3522 4711
Aga Khan University Examination Board (Liaison Office)
View All Educational Boards in Pakistan
Shop# 39, Hotel Pearl Continental,
Shahrah-e-Quaid-e-Azam, The Mall, Lahore 54600, Pakistan
Tel: 111-505-505 - Ext. 2939, Direct: 042 636 3132