Senior Year Around The World: Pakistan

Pakistan gained it's independence from the British Raj on 14th August, 1947. If I was to simplify the relationship between the two, I'd say that the British Raj had been acting like Mother Gothel from Rapunzel. The Raj liked ruling over the Indians- but this ruling wasn't 100% beneficial for us 'savages'. True, the British introduced railways and communication but what about education and rights? What about self sufficiency or standing on our own feet? Instead of striving for complete independence like Rapunzel, Pakistan decided to keep on following the example left by the British. Oh, and check this- we've replaced the British with the Americans.

What does this have to do with education? Well, we've got two systems running high schools all over the country. The first is the system left by our ever dearest British and the second is something concocted to be completely ours. I'm not trying to say that one system is better than the other, but it's just that I'm going to be biased towards my own system since I know all the ins and outs of it- and cannot say the same of the other.

O/A Levels- also known as IGCSE (International General Certificate of Secondary Education) is the system I'm going to be discussing now. I'm not sure if this system is prevalent around the world, but it's a pretty official sounding system- apparently, our papers get checked in London? And all your documents are sent to and come from England. Therefore, your grade is definitely your grade. You can't bribe someone to be lenient with the marking or anything like that (which is something that is prevalent in the other high school system). 

Basically, high school education is divided into two parts, each of two years. You have O Levels- which is further divided into two systems, Edexcel and Cambridge. If your high school decided to go with Edexcel, you'll be done with O Levels in your 10th year. But if your school decides to prefer Cambridge, you'll be out in your 11th year. There's a few differences apart from the year gap, like science papers being harder in Edexcel and language papers being harder in Cambridge etc but no one really cares and students from both systems are treated equally. (I did Edexcel by the way).


Now, I was personally oriented towards the medical field but that didn't stop me from taking up extra subjects. During my two years of A Levels, I took up five subjects instead of the standard three. I took the basic medical subjects, being biology, physics and chemistry and to keep the engineering side open, I took maths as well. Oh- and just for the fun of it, I also took psychology. I couldn't help it, I liked these subjects and the fact that I needed at least 3 As made me feel like I was safeguarding my grades (although it could arguably be the opposite). I passed first year with 4As and a B (which I got on fluke, I had AAC grades in physics which pulled it down to a B) and I cleared A Levels with the standard 3As in the medical subjects! (let's forget about those other subjects I talked about).

Here comes the next part- medical college. Again, two systems. We have government colleges and then private colleges. Government colleges have this one major test that you give called the MCAT which filters out students. These chosen ones get to pick which college they would LIKE to go (they might not get what they want) and then they are placed in colleges depending on your preference and your grade. Each government college has it's own grade standard increased by the number of people who want to apply to it. It's a pretty complex system but the point is, unless you have insanely high grades, you probably won't get into the college you want and end up in some distant town you've never heard of before, studying medicine, almost free of cost (the people's taxes pay for your education). 

Then you have private colleges. These medical colleges usually have their own test each (and you have to pay quite a fee for them too). Then you usually get an interview and then you get picked according to your high school grades, the test grade and the interview. Only 100 students are selected per college. 150 students is uncommon, but present. Medical colleges hand out MBBS degrees (Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery) over a course of five years.

So that's how you clear high school and get into medical colleges in Pakistan. It's definitely a tough road- but then again, what good is life if it doesn't have enough challenges?

Thanks again for writing this interesting and informative post, Catalina! For more articles, visit Catalina's blog; The Lunar Descent :)

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