EM3 Post

SAHE held a panel discussion on ‘Assessment systems in Pakistan: Considerations of quality, effectiveness and use’ during the launch of its annual report- the Education Monitor- of the same title. This discussion took place at the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad. The discussion focused on challenges facing assessments in Pakistan at both the primary and the secondary levels and the way forward.

The panel included a number of experts and practitioners in the field of assessment. Panelists included Unaeza Alvi from Sukkur Institute of Business Administration, Dr. Shafi Afridi from Peshawar Board of Intermediate and Secondary Education (BISE), Dr. Naveed Yousuf from Aga Khan University- Examination Board (AKU-EB), Javed Malik from UK Department for International Development (DFID), Dr. Bashir Gondal from University of Gujrat and Dr. Nasir Mehmood from Punjab Examination Commission (PEC). The event was attended by representatives from Adam Smith International, Cambridge Education, Aga Khan Foundation, Sustainable Development Policy Institute, Institute for Social and Policy Sciences, as well as a number of Pakistani universities and newspapers.

The panelists led an instructive discussion on challenges facing assessments in Pakistan and raised a number of significant points relating to formulation and implementation of an assessment policy, improving technical resources for better test construction and design and ensuring better use of assessment results by stakeholders in the system to improve quality of education. Unaeza Alvi stated that the National Education Policy 2009 is a start for devising a comprehensive policy for assessments in the country. However, key policy actions need to be explicated. She mentioned that with the support of the European Union, an assessment policy is being devised in Sindh. While the curriculum lays down Student Learning Outcomes (SLOs) and one of the purposes of assessments is to see if these SLOs are being met, the SLOs need to be understood clearly by teachers, textbook developers, teacher trainers and item writers.

Dr. Nasir Mehmood stated that assessment is a highly technical area. He said that while some assessment agencies are developing assessments based on best practices/ protocols there is still a long way to go. In his view, there has been no improvement in assessments since the initial expertise, methodologies and practices brought in by National Education Assessment System (NEAS) at the time of its establishment in the early 2000s. He noted that assessment culture also needs to be improved at the level of the teacher by integrating classroom-based assessments with external assessments and by training teachers on assessment-specific terms and practices. He noted the importance of development partner support and the role that DFID played in improving PEC’s practices.

Dr. Bashir Gondal and Javed Malik both discussed the drawbacks of high-stakes testing. They noted that assessments are not reliable and data is not pure when tests are high-stakes (such as in the case of the PEC exam). Dr. Naveed Yousuf also noted that teachers should not feel threatened by assessments, and that their input also needs to be sought when reforming assessment systems.

Dr. Shafi Afridi noted the need for reform of the BISE and the secondary examinations administered by them. He commented on how reform of the BISE and its practices is personality driven (i.e. dependent on the personality and motivation of bureaucrats in top/ leadership positions). When leadership or management changes occur it disrupts the momentum of reform and lowers team morale. He noted that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa is devising a workable Roadmap with technical assistance from development partners to improve assessment practices in the boards. Some improvements have already been made in administration and scoring procedures with the introduction of Optical Mark Recognition (OMR) software.

On the subject of reform of the BISE, Unaeza Alvi noted that there is severe lack of technical resources in the boards, with board staff not even aware of what the characteristics of good items are. She was of the opinion that there should be one apex board in each province to make better use of scarce technical capacity in the boards to design papers. On the subject of technical expertise, or the lack thereof, in assessment agencies Javed Malik also noted that the identity of assessment agencies needs to be transformed from a bureaucratic identity to an academic one since assessment is a highly technical area that suffers from turnover in staff/ leadership.


 Date  28 June 2016
 Location  Islamabad
 Sponsor  Open Society Foundations
 Themes  Assessments
 Project  Event


BISE exam system needs to be improved, DAWN, 29 June 2016
Education report calls for reducing exam boards, The News, 30 June 2016


Abdullah Ali Khan, Research Associate


Education Monitor
Assessment systems in Pakistan: Considerations of quality, effectiveness and use

Jun 2016 | BRIEF
Education Monitor
Assessment systems in Pakistan: Considerations of quality, effectiveness and use (Urdu)