Punjab Boards Online System

Plain paper OMR survey form, without registrat...

The new Punjab Boards’ online registration and academic system has cause a lot of stir recently. Newspapers and TV shows have actively criticized and deemed the system as a complete failure.

Out of my sheer habit of supporting things people oppose and opposing things people support, I thought I should have a look into the matter myself. Having a few friends on the development team of the Online System and being an IT person myself, I do have a better idea (than most jerks on Television Shows and Newspapers) of HOW n WHY the system has failed to deliver what it promised in first place.

Before we really get into the reasons, let’s first clearly understand how Computer Applications, one like this, work. And for that I’ll look into the matter of the Roll Number Slips with Mixed up Genders & Interchange Photos.

The application requires data and photos in a pre-defined format/structure. In case of photos, it needs them to be placed in a specified folder with the photo name same as the roll number of student. The application simply picks up the photos and pastes them on relevant slips. And as far as gender is concerned, the application picks the gender from database as provided.

Now the Question Arises:
Who was Responsible for Delivering this Data in Correct Format?

All the respective boards of course. And if so, as it is, another question pops into head.

Why didn’t they do it properly????

Well, there could be two possible reasons for that. And we’ll look into each one by one.

First of all, Pakistan has really been slow in accepting technology especially when it comes to government sector. Employees have been working for over decades in files and doing all things manually in registers or in MS Excel max. The employees are really resistive in adopting to this new application as they’ll have to break their old habits and pass through this new learning curve (that they think is too steep for them).

And on top of that, majority is computer illiterate. And they have tons of data to prepare (100,000 plus records per session with four sessions in progress at a time).

Now there is every chance of making mistake in this situation.

Let’s just say that out of every 100,000 records, 500 get corrupted/wrong. Now that on percentage is just 0.5% error rate but is still a large figure especially when turned out for protest on streets.

Poor board employees! I Feel Pity For Them!

On the other hand, board employees especially senior employee may not be that innocent. With the launch of new Online System, quite a few of powers have been not only restrained but many stripped as well. Here is a brief list of changes the system has incorporated.

  1. There are no more hard-paper registration forms and hence they can’t be sold out in *black* near the end of Registration deadline.
  2. Centers Allocation and Roll Number Allotment accordingly is no more controlled and manipulated by the Staff. Schools can’t bribe to choose their favourite center. Schools’ students are rotated in the whole examination zone (consisting of many schools other than the same school).
  3. Theory as well as Practical Examiners Assignment (the hottest thing for corruption and bribery) is not in the hand of Staff now.
  4. Fictitious Number Allocation to Answer sheets is no more controlled by Humans, It’s randomly assigned by the System and there is no way even a System Admin can tell which Answer sheet is assigned which Fictitious Number. Hence, paper checkers can’t know whose paper they are checking.
  5. Marks recording from Answer sheets (for subjective type questions) is done through OMR and therefore can’t be intervened for manipulation.

Now it’s certainly hard going down without a fight and that is exactly what might have happened. I can understand how it feels going from being the boss and calling all the shots to mere following orders.

Now what should be done? People are already calling this an utter failure and urging the old system to be restored. But should we go  back?

I’d say let’s not be too hasty in taking the verdict. The system hasn’t failed, we’ve tried to fail it deliberately or just didn’t know how to work with it. I really hope and pray that the Online system continues as our people will eventually mentally accept it and work alongside. Let the system evolve, and let the people working with it evolve.

Technology has always helped in achieving productive and efficient work, and as we adapt to it, our education sector will certainly ONLY benefit from it.


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