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Regulating Testing Services in Pakistan for Promoting Meritocracy

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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….?

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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 .

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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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Karachi-based digital bookkeeping startup, CreditBook raises $1.5 million in seed funding

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The Karachi-based digital bookkeeping startup CreditBook, which is trying to ensure that tracking of transactions goes digital, has announced that it has raised US$1.5 million in seed funding from international and local investors.

Key investors included Pakistan’s BitRate Venture Capital, VentureSouq from the United Arab Emirates, US-based Better Tomorrow Ventures, Ratio Ventures, Quiet Capital, Toy Ventures, and i2i Ventures.

Established in June 2020 by Hasib Malik, Iman Jamall, and Hisham Adamjee, CreditBook strives to help microentrepreneurs digitalize and track their transactions.

CreditBook aims to utilize the funding to scale its user base and diversify its product offerings. As indicated by the startup, its registered client base grew 5x in the last six months to reach 500,000.

“Before the launch in June 2020, we had planned to use a mix of digital marketing and offline acquisition. But with lockdown restrictions, we pivoted to a purely digital strategy. We were surprised when we saw thousands of users come onto the platform in the first month with less than $1,000 in total spend,” Malik told Tech in Asia. Via TechinAsia

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TIKTOK’s global  growth and expansion : a bubble or reality ?

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Social media has offered amazing tools and apps that have revolutionized the lifestyle of people. Social networks always keep you connected with your friends, colleagues and family. Some creative apps have become very popular in recent times especially among the enthusiastic youth who create funny clips with the help of  TikTok. 

Tiktok is the greatest platform for creating short mobile videos. These videos contribute to inspire creativity and bring smiles on the faces of people even amid pandemic and lockdowns. The app has become very popular even in Pandemic and as some of the best informative and educational content went  Viral. 

 Tiktok is the subsidiary of  Grand Tech Startup  Byetdance -a leading  Chinese Startup with mushrooming growth. TikTok has always been expanding its reach worldwide due to its aggressive expansion programs. At present, Tiktok has offices in  Los Angeles, New York, London, Paris, Berlin, Dubai, Mumbai, Singapore, Jakarta, Seoul, and Tokyo.

Tiktok was founded in 2012 by Zhang Yiming. Video sharing is the most popular segment among youth and the company has tapped tremendous growth. The Company is also called douyin in China but its global version is called Tiktok. The continual growth empowered it to acquire its American rival app  musical.ly. The  Company has expanded its outreach globally. 

New Dimensions  i.e. Online Education

The covid-19 has affected the Education badly throughout the world and the online digital education has been getting ground. Most of the Schools, Colleges, Universities, Coaching centres and Academies have anchored to Online Education such as live lectures, quizzes, Presentations and Webinars. Tiktok has announced to enter the online  Education in India as some of the content uploaded on Tiktok related to Education and learning has become viral earning millions of views and generating great revenue prompting  Tiktok to enter the world of  Education. 

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Tiktok has already interacted with content creators and firms in  India to Provide innovative  Learning material as all the educational institutions are closed for an indefinite period and  Tiktok finds it the perfect time to enter the world of Education. 

According to statistics that social Media app used by more than 200 million users every month in India and Tiktok will cover the range of  Science and Math related topics to help students learn from this service. 

 It has partnered with tech startups Vedanta,  Toppr,  Made Easy and Gradeup that will produce educational content for TikTok. It is also collaborating with social enterprises Josh Talks and the Nudge Foundation to mentor 5,000 people across India.

Continuing Growth  amid Pandemic

According to reports of Forbes and Bloomberg, Byetdance surpasses  Uber growth as it has become the top  Startup with value at $78 Billion. Byetdance is the parent company of Tiktok that runs various services. Byetdance has made  London as its strong base owing to trade war of the US with China in the aftermath of the Wuhan covid-19  outbreak. Trump Administration has imposed limitations on Chinese companies to pressurize China to accept US’ demands. Byetdance has attracted many professionals from Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Apple to establish a strong hub at London to expand its outreach in Europe. 

Hiring than Firing amid Pandemic: A big surprise

It is really surprising that when the biggest companies and Franchises are constantly laying off their employees owing to prolonged lockdowns due to Covid-19, The Parent company of  Tiktok, the Byetdance has gone on a hiring spree and plans to recruit 10000 professionals in engineering, software and marketing fields that has stunned the world as even tech giants Google, Yahoo, Microsoft have laid off their staff and closed their offices over the covid-19 outbreak advising their employees to work from home.

ALSO READ :  Higher Education Outreach

“Hiring spree on the part of  Byetdance amid pandemic is a pleasant surprise for the entrepreneurs, Tech giants and Experts globally.  “

Increasing Visibility of Byetdance Globally

With the ambitious journey of growth and reaping the enormous benefits, the company has no more remained a secret for the world as its subsidiary  Tiktok has broken all the records of usability and popularity exploring new frontiers with successful footprint. The recent leap of Tiktok to launch its Education initiative in India will further its grip in the  Asian markets. 

Will the bubble burst or Sustain Market Shocks?

The Byetdance has established footprints in Asia and Europe building strong basis and marketing its services, it is estimated that it can sustain the jolts of pandemic and will retain its position as some reports regarding bubble reputation will fade away forever as the popularity graph of the company maintains upward trend and keeps going.

The majority of the world population is youth so if  Tiktok focuses on youth-related interests by adopting  AI practices, it has already achieved the milestone. 

The Tech experts argue that TikTok has foreseen opportunity amid pandemic when the entire markets have crashed, Offices, Business, schools, colleges have been closed and stock markets crashed, even in such circumstances, if a company keeps hiring that means it established its strong bases so the bubble is not going to burst likely in post-Covid-19 World provided that it adheres to its policies of customer retention, market intelligence and the most important Artificial intelligence to explore the interests of users and offering more relevant content.

 Besides profits, Tiktok pledged a huge amount for Vaccine development for  Africa under its Tiktok for Good endeavours. 

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Social Media and polarization of society

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Social Media has witnessed a mushroom growth that has impacted the discourse of political, cultural and religious systems by providing the equal opportunity of freedom of expression and of sharing an opinion or viewpoint on any issue.

Social Media has played a greater role in rightwing politics that paved the way for populist politicians to reach out to their voters.

Though Social Media has connected the people around the world, at the same time, it is causing division or disintegration and facilitating the social media lobbyists to polarize the communication so much the people support the arguments or opinions or political tirades against leaders without fact checking.

The world has been rocked by social networks such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube because the users of these social networks have already surpassed millions and are growing, but due to the limited regulatory framework, fake news, cyberbullying, extremism and terrorism has reached new heights.

The influencers’ interactions with social media users have polarized the political and social circles that led to the formation of online echo chambers, a tactic of social media recommendations by politicians to influence the users to strengthen their narrative regardless of facts that whether it is right or wrong, but it is knit in a manner that echo chambers appear to be normal for the people thus changing the way of thinking and increasing the supporters base.

The echo chambers post such content that we enjoy a lot while reading, while keeping us away from the content that may stir a debate or arguments or expression of our disagreement over certain social, economic, religious, cultural or policy matters.

The echo chambers keep ideas flowing on a regular basis to the one side –the positive side of the argument, while its negative side is deliberately concealed to hide the facts.

This is the big issue that might be discussed with students, who should be informed and taught at school, college or degree level so that positive and constructive use of this digital medium could be ensured.

Social media connectivity around the world is undoubtedly amazing but the problems it created for both people and students are very dangerous, and need to be addressed and regulated.

Digital media, especially social media, for a long time remained unbridled to post any content that may fall in the purview of hatred, racism, bullying, derogatory remarks, character assault, rebellion, or anti-state elements instigating people to create chaos using the olive branch of social media. Since it was not monitored given the type of content being circulated and the information of people posting such content, including their motives behind such content as may have a constant flow of information that is recommended by the users pretending to be professionals, experts and mentors.

Alarmingly, people without fact-checking go on sharing the content and thus creating hype for such an issue as does not have a basis and was the result of a conspiracy to exert pressure on some person or leaders to get some favours.

The schools and colleges should chalk out the initiative to create awareness and practice of fair use so that social platforms should not post single or one-sided opinions or arguments but should welcome both so that positive use could be ensured. This will further the importance of social media.

Sometimes, the active echo chambers or volcanoes erupt over such issues as may be beneficial for the wider circle of society, but this finds serious criticism masterminded by people with an individual approach. They term it detrimental for them since it did not serve their interests, though it might have been beneficial for general people.

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Humans have an intuitional inclination to communicate with like-minded people or the people with the same choices on social media, thus the echo chambers get even stronger. The discourse that discourages dissenting voices always comes under fire from the thinkers and intellectuals of the nation since it is tantamount to concealing the facts from the people.

The world is coming closer after the covid-19 pandemic that engulfed the entire world, bringing misery and economic crisis. The social media debates go with biased and unbiased approaches regarding getting the vaccine. Some optimists termed it great, while some pessimists or biased approaches raised questions.

The echo chambers try to influence their opinions and win support.Similarly, echo chambers of both Democrats and Republicans only canvassed for their candidates but the leaders instigated the masses to attack Capitol Hill through social media and emotional speeches using their influence on social media, especially Twitter .

Some researchers have found that echo chambers influence people to win support but social media influencers have a follower-base of millions, and may polarize the public and politics, since influencers share success stories like internet marketers compelling you to buy their products.

The opinion leaders and experts reveal that for the last two decades, the percentage of American people having consistently holding liberal or conservative beliefs— rather than a blend of the two, which is the case for most people— has increased from 10 percent to over 20. Beliefs about the other side are becoming more negative creating an alarming situation.

Since 1994, the number of people who see the opposing political party as a threat to “the nation’s well-being or security” has doubled, which heralds how deepening polarization has predictable results raising eyebrows.

The government shutdowns, violent protests, scathing attacks on elected officials, the capitol Hill incident –all indicate that social media have been polarizing the political system and divided the nation each passing day due to echo chambers of both mainstream parties regarding the issues of health, security, human rights, employment and environment.

According to evidence from empirical research conducted on US politicians, politicians following extreme ideologies attracted a larger public audience than those who were moderate, which is the real example of echo chambers.

Usually, messages containing extreme thoughts, emotional instigation, patriotism, or criticizing the opposition received a warm welcome on social media platforms than those messages reflecting merely information.

The polarization of issues and political ideology will have serious repercussions in future that should be addressed on a timely basis so that societies could be saved from further isolation and disintegration.

The issues could be resolved through educating the people and creating awareness about the fair and professional use of social media channels for advocacy for winning support for legislation, an issue, a policy or employment.

Instead of showing the dark side of the issue, we have to educate people regarding both pros and cons of matters of importance for the general public rather than misleading the people with biased approaches to oppose the initiative of the government, community or civil society for the general benefit.

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Social Media network operators are the bigwigs and the most influential in this.They cannot be controlled but only  be regulated by framing such laws that  may ensure fair use of this digital platform and are careful so that users may not face any legal issue by discussing sensitive issues such as desecration of holy places, religions, personalities, anti-state tirades, rebellion, terrorism, extremism and so on. The sensitive issue may stir protests and cause legal proceedings, if the cyber-regulatory laws are implemented to discourage the influence of one-sided opinions or campaigns.

We cannot deny the importance of social media platforms as they provide equal opportunity to people to express and share their thoughts or opinions, but safe and thoughtful use of these platforms will encourage healthy discourse and prove pivotal in promoting dialogue to discuss social, economical and cultural issues peacefully without hitting the sentiments of other communities.

Thus, echo chambers will be less powerful to build a narrative that is appealing but the readers will be engaging themselves in the debates that need interaction.

Undoubtedly, social media platforms have changed the political and social approach of the people and enabled face-to-face digital interaction through video and audio conference calls, so their fair use will mitigate their cons manifold.

The social media networks apply algorithms to connect you with like-minded people but it is up to you whether your engagement in communication is either unbiased or biased.

Social media should be promoting positive discourse to explore the political and economic solutions to the problems of people by reflecting the two sides of the coin so that the discourse be constructive and problem-solving. Social media has given a voice to marginalized people and governments are compelled to resolve the issues of people on a priority basis due to trending topics of social media.

Even the populist leaders may face resistance from social media as the public makes the most of the freedom of expression and criticizes the role of politicians for their failure to address the issues of the public.

In recent times, Facebook, YouTube and Twitter have been creating history in highlighting issues of both public and national interest but at the same time such platforms have been taken by storm by those influencers who continue to feed the news about their vested interests and create psychosocial hype for any issue that may jolt the power corridors of Government.

The politicians always take to Twitter for their precise viewpoint and policy debate and are usually followed by millions of followers. Even the print and electronic media take the tweets as policy statements or the narrative of some party or group.

The schools and colleges should chalk out the initiative to create awareness and practice of fair use so that social platforms should not post single or one-sided opinions or arguments but should welcome both so that positive use could be ensured. This will further the importance of social media.

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