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Regulating the Testing Services

By Abdul Rahman Malik,
Testing and assessment services are rampant in Pakistan as most of Public and Private Sector recruitment is done through these Testing services. These Testing services are also entrusted with the duty of conducting Admission, Scholarship and Entry tests of Undergraduate, Graduate, Post Graduate, MBBS, BDS, BE and other related degrees.
Though the testing services have brought innovation and transparency in public and private sector recruitments, yet these testing services are questioned for declaring favorable results to those on the basis of So-called Corruption in the test results and announcing desirable results in the favour of candidates.
The Testing services such as National Testing Services (NTS) , Pakistan Testing services (PTS) , Open Testing Services (OTS) , Universal testing services (UTS) Sukkur IBA Testing Service (STS) , Quality Testing services (QTS) , Baluchistan Testing Services (BTS ) are the few notable testing services operating in Pakistan .
NTS, PTS and OTS have frequently been contracted Testing services since most of the Public and private sector Organization utilize their services for conducting recruitment, scholarship, admission and entry tests.
NTS leads the testing services as frequently contracted Testing service by all the federal Provincial Governments for the Posts from Grade 1 to 17.One still wonders that how these testing services are conducting Assessment Tests for the Posts of Grade 16 and Grade 17 when we already have Public service commission at Federal Level and Provincial Public service Commissions functioning in each province and the State of Azad Jammu & Kashmir to carry out recruitment from grade 16 and above upon the requisitions received from various Government Departments at Federal and Provincial Level .
The recruitment policy notified by the PSC’s clearly mentions that recruitment for the Posts of grade 16 and above to be carried out by FPSC at Federal Level and Provincial PSC’s at Provincial Level except Posts in President’s Secretariat ,DG ISPR or ISI etc.
We have seen in the past that these Testing services were contracted on the basis of benefiting their favourite whereas, the talented and deserving candidates were deliberately deprived of the right of jobs.
These Testing services mostly hire the Paper setters outside of their organization domain and provide swapped /jumbled coloured booklets to the candidates at the time of Interviews. The paper quality of some testing services is usually not at par with the level of recruitment or post and creates confusion amongst the candidates regarding the tests. For example, NTS mostly conducts entry test for the MBBS in various provinces including Sindh and Punjab.
A handsome amount is accrued from the students on the pretext of Admission and Processing fee that is unjust and an attempt to blatant earning from these collections.
What disturbs the students most that are leakage of paper during the night through social Media channels i.e Whatsapp raising enormous questions over the credibility of these Tests and testing services….?
Last year, such controversy surrounded the NTS when some of the students of MBBS Entry Test complained to the court and protested against the NTS for Leakage the paper on Whatsapp one hour prior to the test thus paving the way for ineligible candidates to the Professional Education of Medical Science.
Hundreds of Students took to the streets and started chanting slogans against NTS and demanded to reconduct entry test in a transparent manner and at the same time. Earlier the test was conducted separately in various Districts in phases that made the result suspicious and questionable.
In the meantime, NAB raided the NTS headquarters and took the record into their custody. All the newspapers carried the news that due to Entry Test paper Leakages and Key distribution to the students on the basis of corruption was the cause of NAB’s raid.
The Personnel of high ranks at NTS Headquarters denied such raid even the NAB rejected such claims of the raid on NTS headquarters. Well, the drama continued since it was ascertained that an NTS staffer or Test Supervisory or Invigilation staff had leaked the paper with answer key to help their own close relatives to be the future doctors.
In this whole drama, The health departments of the respective provinces remained calm and mum over the issue until the Sindh High court took the issue after hearing the complaints of affectees but court works on the basis of evidence and the same happened there .
The Provincial Health Minister on the directives of CM Sindh announced cancellation of Test and asked the DUHS (Dow University of Health Sciences) Karachi to reconduct the test instead of NTS .
Hearing the announcement, the candidates, who had passed the test, rushed to the court and prayed to the court to restore the same result as they told the honorable court that the test was conducted transparently and the results were declared on merit. The complainants could not prove the leakage of the Answer key and paper, thus the court ordered to restore the Test Result and directed the medical colleges to proceed with the admission process.
Such huge controversies are always attached with NTS warranting the government to regulate these testing services and establish Testing Services Regulatory Authority (TSRA) to keep a check on various recruitment tests that are being conducted in public Sector or Private sector especially the Medical College Entrance Tests conducted by NTS throughout the country this year.
Though, Higher Education Commission introduced its own brand namely “Education Testing Council and announced to conduct all Medical and Engineering colleges admission tests through Education Testing council free of Cost as The Traditional testing services charge huge amounts from candidates as processing fees. This gave, to some extent, a sigh of relief to students that at least a uniform educational testing may replace these testing traditional services. Though ETC of HEC conducted the tests for Federal Educational institutes but unfortunately several Provincial Governments especially Sindh and Punjab once again followed the same practice and once again contracted the NTS to conduct the Medical College Entry Tests in Sindh and Punjab despite its controversial past experiences that furthered the woes of the bright and dedicated students who could be instrumental in bringing innovations in Medical science. But ,with announcement of NTS conducting Medical Entry Test, has shattered the dreams of hundreds of students .
The PMDC and PEC must come forward and raise their reservations against the Testing services that are engaged in this lucrative business and looting people with both hands due to their evil designs of making money and destroying the very fabric of Medical education. Even the selection of teachers through NTS in Sindh, Punjab and KPK was marked with irregularities.
It is high time for the Government to mull over the issue and establish the Testing Services Regulatory board or Authority immediately so that rampant irregularities and corruption in these testing services may easily be curbed.
Regulating all Testing Services operating in Pakistan will lead to transparency and promotion of merit in each of their contracted projects. There is also a need of reviewing their past performance and ranking of their services in Categories. If any testing service hits below the belt then that Testing service may be blacklisted and banned for future contracts or projects.
We need to build standards in the Educational and Professional testing system as we need to create testing services like ETS global which prefers online testing technology, Video Interviews through Skype and Auto marking software to check the answerer sheets and announce results within hours.
The Testing services need to restructure their testing model and set the papers matching the job description of the post. This will be beneficial for the company hiring through these testing services as they would have qualified candidate as per requirements.
There is also need to speed up the process of recruitments in public sector through the public service commission at Federal and Provincial level since it takes almost a year for the selection of suitable candidate undergoing Screening Tests, interviewing, Psychological testing and final recommendation.
This whole process affects the performance of the organizations submitting their requisitions for various posts as they will have to wait for almost a year till the availability of the suitable candidates qualifying all the phases of recruitment from Screening to Recommendation .

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