ISLAMABAD, 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

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.