In the fourth part of the article series, educationist Doğan Yücel narrated how the PakTurk scholarship exams started in Lahore and how they spread throughout Pakistan in a short time.
We had to get permission from the Punjab Ministry of Education in order to hold scholarship exams. First and foremost, we had to introduce ourselves and explain who we were. Our school principal Mr. Turgut explained to secretary of the Punjab Minister for Education about the scholarship exam scheme of our Foundation and also expressed his wish to escort the Minister for a tour of our sister schools in Turkey. Shortly later, the Minister accepted the proposal. We had visits and official meetings in Istanbul, Ankara and Kayseri.
We visited some private schools in these cities. Some Turkish businessmen hosted the Punjab Minister for Education in their homes. While in Ankara, the aunt of the Minister’s wife passed away. Upon the news of her death, the lady wished to return to Pakistan on the same day to attend to the funeral. The Minister said to his spouse, “This is fate and we are people who resign to fate. We have complete faith in destiny. Let’s not interrupt our trip. Let’s continue until the end.”
‘You allot the plot and I will place the foundation stone’
During the trip, a businessman from Istanbul inquired about the status of the PakTurk Schools in Lahore. Our school principal explained the circumstances of our school there. The principal said the existing school building did not fully represent the vision of the PakTurk Schools and due to that a purpose-built building should be built and the school should be moved there. Addressing the Minister, the businessman said, “You allot the school plot and I will cover the ground-breaking cost of the school building”. From that moment on, we started dreaming of the construction of the first-ever school building of our own.
Immensely satisfied with the school visits he had conducted in Turkey; the Punjab Minister for Education issued our school an official letter after his return and endorsed the organization of a scholarship examination in the Punjab province. That letter contained the official statements that PakTurk, as an education foundation, was permitted to organize scholarship exams and that the administrators and the staff of public schools across Punjab should assist the PakTurk Schools in the organization of the exams. Following that letter, we first held a lunch meeting with the principals of the public schools in Lahore and briefed them about the educational objectives of the PakTurk Schools and the reasons why we planned to hold scholarship exams. We requested them to help us in organizing the exams.
We used to check thousands of exam papers one by one
Subsequently, we started holding scholarship exams for bright public school students in Lahore and Northern Punjab to study in our school as boarding students. We endeavoured to include the bright students from every branch in the senior year of the middle school. In that way, approximately 5,000 students attempted our scholarship exams and we, as single teachers, checked the papers of those students one by one.
As of the following year, we started to announce our scholarship exams with posters at the school entrance. We endeavoured to increase the number of examinations not only in Lahore but throughout Pakistan. I guess from 2007 onwards, only the students in the 5th and the 8th grades sat for tests in Lahore. In the cities where we had schools, we used to take the exams in our school buildings. In other cities, the students used to take the exams in large public school buildings. Eventually, as PakTurk Lahore, we gave tests to nearly 3,000 students in Okara, Gujranwala, Gujarat, Nankana Sahib, Sheikhupura, Faisalabad and Lahore.
12,000 students sat for exams in 2007
For the first time in Pakistan, we prepared MCQ tests to be answered on OMR (Optical Mark Recognition) answer sheets. Thanks to that infrastructure, we established a system where all students could see their rankings in their schools, regions and Pakistan. Students who succeeded in the exam had the opportunity to have free-of-cost education at the PakTurk educational institutions. In 2007, approximately 12,000 students across Pakistan sat for the PakTurk scholarship examinations. Each exam-taking student was issued a Result Certificate.
To be continued…
Part Three: Lahore’s heat and the first teaching experience