CSS aspirants may need to reconsider their ‘options’


Rumors of regrouping of optional subjects by FPSC leave many CSS aspirants in the lurch, place professional degree holders at significant disadvantage
Academics say ‘illogical’ new grouping will be futile in bringing better candidates to fore

The Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) is reportedly planning to regroup optional subjects for the Central Superior Services Examination 2016 and tentative subject groups have been made, catching students aspiring to sit the examination off guard.

According to the proposed new grouping of subjects, there will be four subject groups and candidates would have to opt for one subject from each group.

The confusion is further compounded as no formal announcement has yet been made by the FPSC and the aspirants–many of who have already started preparation for CSS exam 2016– are left in a lurch over which subjects they should prepare for.

Most aspirants start preparing for the exam at least a year before the scheduled date but with almost a year left for the 2016 CSS exam, rumors of the new development are a serious cause of concern for them as many have already decided upon their optional subjects as per the previous subject groups.

Talking to Pakistan Today, CSS Coaching Center World Times Project Head Adeel Niaz said there is no logic behind the newly-proposed groups. “Mere shuffling of subjects or readjustment of scores is not going to yield better results,” he said.

Referring to the declining quality of the selection process, he said, “The very foundations of this whole system have been shaken. The need for reforms warrants an insightful discourse rather than a haphazard modification which targets particular groups.”

Criticising the FPSC governing body, Adeel said, “Oldies at the helm of affairs of the commission have failed to realise the demand of contemporary times.” To exemplify his stance, he said that some of the optional subjects such as Political Science, Public Administration and US History are thoroughly discouraged even though their basic understanding is imperative for a civil servant.

On the other hand, aspirants are compelled to opt for subjects such as regional languages, Forestry and Persian which merely adds digits to their mark sheet but are of little practical value.

According to the new optional subjects grouping which hasn’t been officially notified as yet, all candidates would have to opt for one subject out of Arabic, Persian, English Literature, Urdu, Criminology, Urban Planning and Development, Agriculture and Anthropology.

Adeel further added that while the world is moving towards objectifying the method of examination to avoid human error, “the evaluation method of competitive examination leaves aspirants at the mercy of examiners and candidates have to bear the brunt of the examiner’s prejudice”.

Suggesting restructuring of the system, he said, “Uniformity of syllabus is essential to evaluate the caliber of contenders. One method to ensure this is to do away with the choice to opt for subjects so that all candidates take the exam in the same subjects. Furthermore, aptitude and academic background should be considered before allocation so that the right talent may be inducted in the right occupational group.”

Stressing the need to abolish subjective method of evaluation, he said, “The system of objective-based evaluation and machine-readable answer sheets should be introduced by the FPSC as adopted by the National Testing Service (NTS).”

Speaking about the implications of the decision, renowned CSS mentor Waqas Iqbal said if FPSC has taken this step to filter the candidates with good caliber then the regrouping will prove to be futile because the aspirants will resort to cramming to score high on the written test.

“Rather than modification of optional subjects, the commission should give considerable weightage to psychological assessment and interview in order to select the right person for the right job.”

A Geography professor who teaches at a distinguished university in Lahore said, “The recent proposal openly discriminates against professional degree holders as the first two groups will only facilitate those candidates who have a background of social sciences. If FPSC has allowed professional degree holders to take the exam, it should also provide them equal opportunity,” he said, adding that it will be discriminatory to encourage a fraction of aspirants by giving their subjects high weightage. The educationist spoke on the condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the media according to the university’s rules.

According to the tentative grouping, the first group is likely to include Economics, Public Administration, Accounting, International Relations, Jurisprudence and International and Constitutional Law. The second group includes Political Science, Mass Communication, Islamic History, Indo-Pak History, and European and British History.

A renowned Psychology mentor questioned the validity of the proposal.

“How can a panel of few take such an important decision without consulting technical experts or educationalists and without providing a valid rationale?”

Calling the regrouping “non-sense”, he said, “Who can justify the inclusion of subjects of versatile fields such as social sciences, pure sciences and languages in one group?”

The third tentative group includes 13 subjects and couples subjects like Philosophy, Sociology, Psychology, Geography and regional languages with pure sciences subjects such as Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. The diverse group also includes subjects like Forestry and Botany.

“By restricting candidates to opt one out of 13 subjects, brains with limited vision will be ushered in,” the Psychology mentor argued.

Talking to Pakistan Today, ASP Sardar Mavarhan Khan of the 39th Common Training Program (CTP) said, “The recent move of FPSC to narrow down the options to opt subjects for CSS exams suggests that the authority wants to develop a strict criterion in order to get less number of candidates for the interview. Moreover, the new scheme discourages candidates with linguistic background by cutting down the marks of Urdu subject by half.”

At the same time, aspirants for the coveted services had diverse opinions regarding the proposed changes.

Aspirant Shehnaz Wazir, hailing from Waziristan and planning to appear in CE-2016 said, “I have been staying in Lahore for the past few months to prepare for the exam. If such a decision is implemented, I will have to start everything from scratch.”

Another aspirant Karimdad Dilshad, who has qualified the written part of the CE-2014 said, “If FPSC plans to make any changes in the subject groups, it should make a timely announcement.” “The uncertain situation has affected the preparation of candidates as considerable number of aspirants start preparation well a year before the examination,” he added.

Appreciating the new scheme of groups, candidate Soban Saleem said, “The suggested scheme of subjects and their respective weightage is quite reasonable when viewed in the backdrop of the job requirements of occupational groups. This move will help the authority to recruit better candidates.”

When contacted by Pakistan Today, a high-ranking official of the FPSC said, “We cannot confirm the rumors unless we receive orders in black and white.”

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