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An Autopsy on CSS 2017 Exam (Editorial March 2017)

JWT-Editorial-March-2017

Given the disastrous result of CSS-2016 written part, wherein almost ninety-eight percent candidates failed to make it to the interview, it was being expected that the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) will introspect on the causes behind the debacle and that papers for written part of 2017 exam will be designed so as to assess the mental capabilities and analytical skills of the aspirants, as well as their aptitude for the civil service. But, hopes dashed and papers for CSS 2017 were really ticklish and taxing.

The most baffling part of this year’s exam was that papers were designed in a way that clearly belied Rule 5 (I) of FPSC’s ‘Rules for Competitive Examination (CSS) 2017’ which sets a Second Division or Grade “C” Bachelor’s degree as minimum qualification for a CSS aspirant. This policy, however, remained on paper only and papers, especially those of Essay, and Précis and Composition were way above the standard of an average Pakistani graduate. Keeping in view the educational standards of our country, setting such a high-standard paper is sheer injustice to the aspirants. And, it seems that the graduates of public sector institutions, where educational standards are extremely poor, are virtually out of the race; and only the foreign-qualified or graduates of private sector institutions, most of whom belong to well-off families, will get through.

Given this state of affairs, and from policies of the FPSC, should we assume that those at the helm of affairs want only a limited number of candidates to make it to the interview? Aren’t the papers increasingly becoming an axing tool for a huge chunk of candidates? Do the FPSC policymakers want to make Civil Service of Pakistan a club of only the rich? It is perturbing because if only a few students would pass the written exam, the interviewers will have a limited lot to choose new CSPs from, and, hence, merit will surely be compromised.

It is of special import to mention here that public service commissions of various countries interview at least 4-5 candidates to fill a single vacancy. For instance, in 2013, India’s UPSC called about 3000 candidates for interview, which was 2.5 times the number of vacancies. In Pakistan, Punjab Public Service Commission interviews 4-5 candidates for each vacancy. But, surprisingly, FPSC’s ratio of interviewees per vacancy has declined over the recent years. This state of affairs warrants serious attention of the Commission bigwigs.

Another embarrassing issue is the alleged leak of CSS papers on social media. As per media reports, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) has already launched a probe into the matter and hopefully findings will soon be made public. However, the FPSC too should work vigorously on developing a strong and foolproof mechanism to thwart any such effort.

Third, and perhaps, the most important is the matter of language in which CSS exam 2018 and onwards will be conducted. In 2015, the Supreme Court of Pakistan while deciding two constitution petitions on the implementation of Article 251 of the Constitution, held that “… in the competitive examinations at Federal level the recommendations of government bodies [formed to take steps to implement Article 251] should be considered”. Lahore High Court toed the same line and directed the FPSC to conduct CSS examination in the Urdu language next year i.e. 2018. This verdict has created a sense of confusion among the prospective aspirants. They are at sea over their future course of action. Adding fuel to the fire is FPSC’s inexplicable silence. The Honourable Chairman FPSC, Mr Naveed Akram Cheema, would surely be well aware that aspirants have to tread an arduous path for many months to fulfill their dreams of becoming a CSP officer. If they remain at sixes and sevens about what will be the language for next year’s exam, how on earth they will be able to concentrate on their studies? So, this air of uncertainty and confusion must be cleared at the earliest.

JWT would also like to draw the attention of the Chairman FPSC to another chronic issue, that is, errors in CSS papers. Every year, question papers are found replete with huge grammatical and typographic mistakes. This year again a number of mistakes have been noted. Typo mistakes aside, a blatant blunder has been committed as in Balochi, Punjabi and Psychology papers, the exam year was written 2016 instead of 2017. It is highly deplorable that such drastic decline in standards, that once was a hallmark of the FPSC, is going on unchecked right under his nose.

In the end, it is apt to state that if the FPSC wants to recruit genuinely talented people, it must make CSS exam more systematic, suave and error-free. Papers should not be something out of this world and the interviewers must have a better, bigger lot of aspirants. Rather than focusing more on candidates’ written scores, more weight should be given to the Psychological Assessment which must be conducted by highly-professional individuals. This is the only way to recruit genuinely-talented persons for the Civil Service of Pakistan.

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