Appropriateness of ICAB exemption policy

There has been a buzz around the CA community (Which includes all the members, Current and past students) regarding ICABs signing of MoU with universities for exemption in CA exams. Under these MoUs, Students of those designated universities will obtain exemption from appearing in exams for some subject of ICABs Knowledge level. This created both positive and negative vibe around the CA community. Some people are perceiving this move as lowering the standard or benchmark of the CA degree. Some of the students are furious because others will automatically advance in the CA route without any effort where others have to fight to pass those exams. Whereas there are people who are perceiving this as an opportunity for bringing talented students in CA community.

Over last week I have seen different argument regarding the MoUs and most of them were against the MoUs. I like to share some of the comments I have read over in the Facebook group CA in Bangladesh which is popular online platform for CA Community:

Against Exemption policy

  1. Exemption policy is unethical, unfair and illogical.
  2. If the students are really brilliant, they can easily pass those exams. There is no point is awarding exemption to them. Academic degree & education is totally different from Professional degree & Education.
  3. Not all brilliant students becomes CA. There are lots of general students who have become CA.
  4. Students who come to study CA only for exemptions should not come to study CA.
  5. Is it a fish market?
  6. Usain Bolt is talented but he is not given added advantage in a race for his talent.

For Exemption Policy:

  1. Exemption will be awarded to those who are actually bright student and ICAB wants bright student to come to CA.
  2. The subjects which will be exempted are already covered in their prior education.
  3. Some universities follows the ICAB manuals as their text book.
  4. In the era of globalization, you must consider exemptions for attracting talent. This is not a subject to monopoly market. Exemptions in few subject never means passing all paper. This is a global policy and every professional body is adopting this.

There are lot other comments against and supporting the ICABs recent exemption policy. Some of the students has requested Bangladesh Chartered Accountancy Chhatra Parishad (BCACP) to initiate movement against this policy. I understand that most of the students are furious because they feel that they will lose in the competition. They feel vulnerable when some newcomers will automatically pass the exam without any effort where it took some time for them to pass those subjects. Its normal to feel that way when some changes are on the way. But students need to understand that their viewpoint of the situation are different from the viewpoint of the ICAB councilors. Being in the top position of the institute and the profession, they have full and clearer pictures about the institutions and the professions. They have to think for the current welfare of profession, members and the current students as well as the future of the profession, members and the students.

What Im going to say next is from my experience and entirely my own opinion & judgment. Its not an official opinion or press release of ICAB. My opinion might vary from others and there might be better logic than mine. To me, ICABs exemption policy is relevant and appropriate. Dont get furious! Hear me out. Please read the blog patiently.

Im working in a CA firm and I was involved in recruitment of some articles students. From my experience, most of the students who are interested, no I should say excited, to pursue to be a Chartered Accountants are not up for it. They have very limited knowledge or fails to apply whatever the knowledge they have acquired. This is almost similar for the the students of prominent private and public universities. When I asked current and prospective CA students the reason for pursuing CA, most of them responded to get a better job. None of them was actually interested to complete CA. What Ive witnessed from my experience is that students who do not get any job after graduation, trends to join in a CA firm and complete the articled period and obtain the CACC (CA Course Complete) status. They hope to get a job using the CACC status. It is an added advantage for them if they could pass some subjects even complete a level. Im sure you will not let these sorts of students, who does not have the intention to complete CA, to bear the flag of ICAB.

Now, this is not the scenario for everyone. There are many students who have the intentions and willingness to be a CA but come from not so wealthy/ solvent family. They have to depend on their family for the expenses or they have to support themselves from the allowances that CA firms pays or tutoring others. It really becomes difficult for them when they have to think, in addition to study methods and exam tactics, about financing their education. Most of these students fails to progress in their study because they have to prioritize others things.

Again this does not cover the whole scenario. There are students who enthusiastic and determined to be a CA regardless of the financial conditions and obstacles. These students struggles against all odds and eventually achieves the success. These students might be brilliant or might not be brilliant. They understands their weak points and works hard to overcome them. These are the ideal students who have firm determination and clear goals to achieve. But in reality these sorts of students are very few. And I believe, almost all qualified Chartered Accountants fall under these category. As these sorts of students are few, number of qualified Chartered Accountants are also few. Since 1972, we have got only around 1800 Chartered Account. A significant portion of them are deceased, retired or out of the country. This is not a number which really matched with the economy and this is one reason for huge demand of the Chartered Accountants. But its not a healthy situation for the profession if the demand is due to scarcity of CAs.

Limiting the number of CAs is not a good idea. In reality, if the resource is limited, an alternative is always developed. Therefore, limited the number of CAs will always lead the market opportunity for other professional bodies. Demand for CAs should come from the value they add to the industry and the economy. If the CAs can create demand for their service and value addition, number or supply will not have effect. By nature, services provided by a CA is challenging. Being a CA, you need to understand that your expertise depends on how you apply your knowledge, not just what knowledge you have. We need persons who are up for the challenges. We need to increase quality students to increase the number of CAs.

Now how does exemption policy helps to become a CA? First of all it doesnt entirely helps to become a CA because you have to pass other exams which will depend of your own effort. But allowing exemption will give a boost in the journey to be a CA. As I mentioned earlier, there are 3 types of students, who come to just have CACC, students who have financial obligations and students are determined and ambitious. Awarding exemption or not allowing exemption to the students of 1st category will not have any effect. They will not aim for being a CA. But allowing exemption to others will be beneficial. How? Those who have financial needs have to spend less. They can somewhat increase their focus on their study. Students who are confident and determined, will feel encouraged and motivated. And truly speaking, we need this type of students.

Awarding exemption for prior studies is not something new. Almost all professional bodies allows exemption based on the performance of prior studies. Professional bodies like, ICAEW, CPA, CIMA, ACCA, ICAI, ICAP and other globally recognized professional bodies allows exemption based on the prior education. Even in our Country, ICMAB and ICSB, two other professional body, allows exemption on the foundation courses. All professional bodies awards exemption based on the institute of prior studies and the performance in prior education. They have strict criteria for awarding the exemptions. Before awarding exemption, a professional body needs to compare the syllabus of prior studies which matches with the subjects of the professional education. Then based on the performance in earlier studies, exemption is awarded. Exemption is not allowed for any students with have the same degree from any institute.

If ICAB follows the similar exemption policy, then I believe there should not be any issue with awarding exemptions. ICAB can make MoUs for awarding exemption for some subjects if the educational institutions follows the ICAB curriculum. Im sure ICAB is doing the same and setting the criteria for awarding exemptions. ICAB needs to share the contents of MoUs to avoid confusion.

But if ICAB starts to award exemption in most of the subjects of Knowledge level for each and every students of those universities, it will be unfair to other students. Furthermore, it will decrease the value of persons qualified knowledge level. ICAB must ensure that there is a strict criteria for awarding exemptions and not all subjects of knowledge level is exempted. ICAB should award exemption to those students who have strong determination to be a CA and who actually deserve it.

Students need to understand that Exemption is not awarded for each and every students of those universities. Again all subjects of knowledge level is not being exempted. Those students still have to sit for the rest of the subjects of Knowledge level, Application level and Advance stage. I read a comment in Facebook that Usain bolt is not given added advantage in a race for his talent and ability. Thats true. But keep in mind that a race determines the winner and there can be one winner. A professional education is not a competition to determine a winner. It’s a platform to for recognizing professional persons and there can be multiple winner. Instead of opposing the Exemption policy, students should attempt to push ICAB to publish the contents of MoU for transparency and maintain a strict policy for it. Apart from that Students should focus on increasing the minimum allowance of the CA students.

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