Zohaib Asad – the Boy who Scored
He came, he saw, he excelled. Zohaib Asad is yet another high-achiever of Pakistan who miraculously managed to score a record number of 28 As in O-levels. Yes, 28. Here’s an inside-look into the brainiac’s life.
My hometown is Wah Cantt near Islamabad. Since my kindergarten years I studied at Beaconhouse School System. My father is a doctor running his own hospital whereas my mother is a housewife with a masters in Islamic Studies. I am currently the first and only person in the world to have achieved 28 A’s in International O levels other than that I have 10 A’s in International A/AS Level along with Top in the Region awards in Human and Social Biology and General Paper. For my achievement I was invited and rewarded by the then prime minister of Pakistan, Yousaf Raza Gillani, along with all major news channels of Pakistan as well McGill’s Principal and Vice Chancellor Dr. Heather Munroe Blum.
You are in McGill, right? Pursuing which degree?
I’m doing a Double Majors in Economics and International Development.
How different was the transition from A-Levels in Pakistan to McGill?
Academically, the transition followed up from where I had left in A levels. Although getting used to living alone away from parents for the first time in a new country and interacting in a highly diverse cultural society was quite a change to get used to.
Giving 28 CIE exams is no easy task. How did you manage such a tough schedule?
My subjects were from CIE and EdExcel International. When I began I had no specific number of subjects in mind, I focused on the basic subjects that were of primary importance which for me were 11 in number. After the initial 11 A’s, the remaining subjects were done literally over a span of 12 months and it involved the use of the experience of exam technique and planning what combination of subjects to focus on at a specific time so it was more about technique rather than simply hard work.
What was the reaction of your friends and parents when you decided to take up such a vast number of subjects?
Like I said when I cleared my first 11 subjects I didn’t have any other specific number of subjects in mind, most of my friends only used to know of my subjects after they had been registered because I used to target what I could perceive as realistically possible as an exam session approached. My parents knew I don’t do things without a reason so they never discouraged me either way with 11 A’s and a distinction already in the bag I had nothing to lose only to gain.
Not really. Enjoying life and keeping work apart is also a skill that becomes more obvious once the work load and the pace of life increase at and beyond university. I did everything from enjoying Xbox 360 with my younger brother, playing cricket in the heat, going out with my family on weekends, watching movies to sleeping for a straight one dozen hours but with a sense of achievement in mind it was more mentally satisfying to do so.
On a lighter note, what sort of non-academic activities do you like?
In my senior years of Beaconhouse School I was the head-boy of my school looking after the school’s discipline, conducting morning assemblies, coordinating different events. Other than that I was a regular member of my school’s football and cricket teams. At home I had a passion for online gaming on Xbox 360, some of my favorites being the resident evil series, call of duty series, cricket and Max Payne.
What are your views on the education system prevalent in Pakistan?
The local system of education needs to be revamped; it still focuses more on factual knowledge rather than critical analysis skills.
What changes can be made to it?
I believe structural changes are the best way to initiate an education reform. It is not economically feasible at present to possible subsidize public education and make the O/IGCSE and A level system affordable to everyone but it is possible to design the syllabus and examination structure of the local system similar to that used by Cambridge International Examinations.
How can students our age contribute?
The first tip is to be yourself, keep an empirical track of what is going on in the world and then act in your own context rather than the east following the west or the west following the east. As long as you are original you will discover your own ability and how you can tailor a career to enhance your life and of those around you.
What is the definition of education according to you?
Education is a tool that gives you an ability to think in a specific way. Unfortunately, most of the people tend to reduce its meaning to books and exams whereas it actually is to be able to set your priorities and achieve them. The purpose of education is not to produce stereotypes but to craft an individual personality.
It does. I still come across encouragement at all levels at which the recent fresh talent has promoted Pakistan in a positive light, so Pakistan as a whole certainly does.
Do you think that good grades make a good human?
Unfortunately, on a general scale good grades tend to bring in arrogance and selfishness which don’t make a good human however, there are exceptions as long as one is able to refrain from these two things.
Is there a correlation between good grades and a good education?
I’ll have to test that empirically so I can’t say. However, there is certainly no correlation between bad grades and a good education, especially, in a system like CIE which is very liberal and systematic if one studies responsibly. You get the reward for the effort you put in that is all that I’ve experienced in so many exams.
‘The true purpose of education is to make minds, not careers’ – William Deresiewicz. Any comments?
Totally agree with that. Although, a career is an underlying objective of education the primary reason should be to develop broad minds because no matter which university of the world you attend at the end of the day you have to deal with people around you and a good mind can keep things running in balance.
What does the Pakistani establishment need to do in order to explore more of its talent?
Revamp the education structure, promote career awareness which is a major issue as most of the people still cannot think of any field beyond medicine and engineering which has heavily increased labour supply in these two areas in all major city areas and is hence reducing salaries and over the long term will result in more unemployment.
Do you have any message for your peers?
Success is a subjective term and cannot be measured objectively. You must aim for what you define success to be for yourself and then achieve it. Every individual is different, so you should plan and set your targets which you consider to be achievable realistically without ever letting in emotions because a realistic person is never emotional. What you perceive is what you can do, if you cannot perceive it your probably cannot do it. If you stick to that you will always be successful.