To the students who received their results on Thursday, you deserved so much more and if you didn’t get what you hoped for, don’t take anything to heart. Usually, I tend to stay away from matters of education and education policy, but today, I write this piece in hope for substantial action. On Thursday, students across the nation received their Cambridge International Examinations (CIE) AS and A-Level results. Like every year, this year would inevitably have stories of both success and failure. But things took a rather bleak turn this Thursday, following the announcement of the futures of over 45,000 pupils in Pakistan. Many students rely on these results to complete their admission process and provide universities with insight as to where their conditional offers stand. It’s essential that we first understand the process of the A Level grading. Like other boards, Cambridge University relies on grade scales to report results from A* to E, with E grade being the lowest (pass). Candidates in Pakistan usually tend to give their AS level in one year, and the A2, also known as the full A level, the next year. There is also an option of taking all examinations together, which some also opt for. After the Coronavirus Pandemic hit, grading on behalf of Cambridge changed to better facilitate students and their challenges and disruptions. And so, more students received a higher grade than anticipated, in line with the amount of preparation and resources they had available at the time. 2023, according to the Cambridge International website was meant to be different. According to Cambridge, “The standard of exams in 2023 will return to the standard of exams in 2019”, essentially meaning the grade levels would return to pre-pandemic levels. Again, the grading was in no way meant to make it harder for students to achieve the top grade, and the thresholds for grade divisions barely shifted-but that’s just half of the real story-especially in Pakistan. There’s a conversation about the fee structure and the amount of money the British Council takes from students’ parents. Students who expected A*’s, A’s, and B’s, were left to the behest of C’s, D’s, and E’s. Outrage immediately sparked across social media and the British Council (the main administrator of the examinations) received thousands of requests and negative feedback regarding the move. The British Council-to control the situation-sent out an email re-assuring students that all was done in fairness-but hardly so. I personally have had first-hand experience and have received calls from dozens complaining about where they thought they stood on the grade threshold table, and the grade they actually received. In Economics (Code 9708) for example, the grade ‘A’ is met this year at 60% and 62%, depending on how the students broke down their attempts. In one such paper (Paper 2), the A Grade stands at about 25, meaning B graders got only 30% of the paper correct. By that standard, more pupils with top grades in schools and teaching centers would receive at least A’s and B’s, not a simple pass and fail. I spoke to one such student who said that they attempted the paper really well. They took a retake of the last session which was also known to have been disappointing but not on a level like this. They received a very low grade and can’t even go for the ‘EAR’, since it is a hefty fee, and an unpromised (and unaccommodating) result correction. I’ve also seen people saying they’ve left their papers blank and received a pass and a C grade. What is this grading, and what is going on with children’s lives? Children’s lives are literally on the line with an endemic of depression becoming ever-so common as the days since Thursday progress. This is again a ‘drip, drip, drip’, of where the education system stands in Pakistan, and the lack of investigation carried out by the relevant authorities. And moreover, in the three days that papers were not held due to political unrest and the PTI leader’s arrest, many (other than Mathematics and History students) saw their examinations cancelled and automatically applied to a Covid era exemption rule. The hypocrisy in all this is that Covid-era rules were used, and Covid-era grading was disregarded. As for the students, universities are stepping up to accommodate and help on the points that the British Council could not. The Institute of Business Administration (IBA) in Karachi has agreed to lower its grade requirements since very few students met the criteria for confirmed admission. And as much as a problem the indiscretion of grading is, there’s also a conversation of the fee structure and the amount of money the British Council takes from all these students’ parents, on account of being representative of the students and their challenges. This year, the already very high fee for O Level was hiked amounting up to 200,000 for the total O Level. This is an increase in 15000 per subject for 11th grade, and an increase in 10000 per subject for 10th grade. As far as this year is concerned for A Levels, the normal registration for the November series ended two days before the 10th of August result, which means all those who are not happy with their results must pay a late fee, which amounts to a total of 61000 for a full subject course. This is completely outrageous! Politicians and activists alike, including PMLN’s Senior Vice President Ms. Maryam Nawaz and others have raised extreme concern over what she calls are ‘unfair results’ and ‘severe unrest and anxiety’ among students. Politicians who are her adversaries say it is a move to gather youth support, but it is in fact an effort to raise a voice for grassroots issues-and not a political statement. If at all, the poll numbers could minimally budge but the change made for thousands of children is a much more opportunity than mere politics. And that, frankly, is commendable. At the end of the day, if they study, prepare and attempt an A* paper, then they deserve an A* or at least an A. It’s not warranted to give them all low grades, using past precedent as an excuse and a lack of transparency. The writer is a columnist and a linguistic activist.