FPSC report says 71 seats remained unfilled in 2013 as compared to 30 and 45 in the previous two years.
Cause for disagreement:52% is the quota in civil service for Punjab. PHOTO: STOCK IMAGE
ISLAMABAD: A report by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) paints a gloomy picture of the Central Superior Services (CSS) results of the last many years.
According to the report, which has been submitted in Parliament, a total of 71 seats remained unfilled in 2013 as compared to 30 seats in 2012 and 45 in 2011. Moreover, the pass percentage in the written exam was 30 per cent in 2002, but came tumbling down to 7.83 per cent in 2012, 1. 93 per cent in 2013 and 3.3 per cent in 2014.
According to the report, in 2012, the government could only fill 240 posts out of 285 positions that were available to candidates.
“There were not enough qualified and eligible candidates to fill out the remaining 45 positions,” the report says.
According to the report, the number of vacant vacancies for minorities is also on the rise.
Of the 30 vacant posts in 2012, 17 of those allocated for minorities against their quota remained unfilled. In 2011, the number of vacant posts (for minorities) was 13 out of a total of 45 vacant posts.
The report also sheds light on the glaring provincial disparity in terms of quota, which leads to disagreement between the provinces.
Of the 10,066 candidates in 2012, 788 qualified for the exam with 67 per cent seats allocated to candidates from Punjab, 12 per cent to Sindh (rural), five per cent to Sindh (urban), nine per cent to Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), three per cent to Balochistan, as many to Gilgit-Baltistan (G-B) and Fata and one per cent to Azad Jammu and Kashmir (AJK).
The region-wise share of allocated quotas remains, according to the report, at 52 per cent for Punjab, 15 per cent for Sindh (urban) and 13 per cent for rural, 10 per cent for K-P, five per cent for Balochistan, three per cent for G-B and Fata and two per cent for AJK.
Diminishing English, current affairs’ skills
According to the report, in 2012, around 82 per cent of the qualified candidates obtained 60 per cent marks in Islamic Studies and 77 per cent candidates in Every Day Science, two per cent in English Essay, 11 per cent in English Precise and Composition, one per cent in Current Affairs and Pakistan Affairs.
Moreover, the report reveals that of the 52 per cent (5,244) students who opted for journalism in 2012, only nine per cent (488) had prior knowledge of the subject. The same trend was reported in other subjects.
Similarly, 97 per cent of the candidates opted for British History, 96 per cent for International Law, 96 per cent for Public Administration, 94 per cent for Forestry, 93 per cent for Geography, 93 per cent for Indo-Pak History, 90 per cent for International Relations, 91 per cent for Sociology and 91 per cent for Urdu, but none of the candidates had studied these subjects before.
The report concludes that the result indicates the non-seriousness of candidates in selection of optional subjects, influence of training academies which run crash preparatory classes and the notion of high scoring subjects.
“Most of these academies tutor potential candidates through selective study and reading which can barely get them through the exam. Quite often, candidates resort to guide books or old notes. Resultantly, most of the candidates end-up with a combination of optional subjects of which either they do not have any academic background or there is no relevance to civil services,” said the report.
It also points out that a majority of candidates rely on substandard study material available in the market. “They have demonstrated glaring flaws both in comprehension and expression as they have abruptly jumped to writing a topic without comprehending its meaning and consequently, loose, lengthy and jumbled stuff is produced without any sense of relevance, clarity and structure.”
Published in The Express Tribune, November 3rd, 2014.
The result of the most recent examination for the Central Superior Services (CSS) — in which around 10,000 candidates appeared and 200 passed — has elicited much commentary. Most of it, a lament on the falling standard of education, has been predictable. A different perspective is more intriguing: it lauds the examination for being meritocratic and so rigorous that it selects the very best for the civil service, which, it argues, is all to the good.
Does this claim hold water? I argue otherwise based on evidence, observation, and investigation. First, the evidence: if the claim is correct, the quality of the civil service should have been improving over time. Even insiders accept that is far from the case.
Second, the observation: as one involved with mentoring undergraduates, I have seen the most creative and perceptive students fail the test and the relatively mediocre succeed. This observation so intrigued me that over the past two years I have investigated the experience of students who appeared in the examination.
Here is an example to set one thinking: a student went into the CSS examination with a 94th percentile ranking in the SAT writing test, an A+ in a BA writing and communication course, an 85th percentile ranking in the GRE essay test, and a 100 percentile ranking in the TOEFL. In the CSS English essay he was awarded 12 marks out of 100 and failed. In contrast, a number of students who found writing a coherent paragraph difficult, cleared the essay.
Civil service exams are not testing for intelligence.
Something was clearly amiss and my investigations led to the following hypothesis: an examination can be strictly meritocratic and extremely rigorous and yet be entirely misleading at the same time.
To pass judgement on an examination one has to know what it is testing for. I can assert with some confidence that the CSS examination is not testing for intelligence or creativity or command over language. Rather, I sense it is testing for obedience to a metanarrative, loyalty to an officially sanctioned ideology, and the forswearing of all questioning of the status quo.
I found that a four-year undergraduate education, even from the best institutions in the country, is not enough to sit the CSS examination successfully. Close to another year of preparation in a coaching centre is needed where students are drilled in what is considered acceptable in answers to typical questions, what authorities are to be cited prominently or avoided at all costs, and even what part of the text is to be highlighted.
Then there are the questions themselves about which candidates are instructed not to express their own opinions. Rather, they are required to demonstrate knowledge of the acceptable answers and reproduce them without error in the required format. Many questions are formulated in ways that leave room for only one acceptable and safe answer.
Smart students entered the year of coaching aware of what it entailed but with the confidence that they could play along to pass the examination and then revert to what they really believed in. While some did survive, many emerged with their personalities altered. This was indoctrination at its most effective. I could not help thinking of the CSS academies as upscale equivalents of the much-criticised madressahs. All that might be separating the two would be the back-and-forth swaying.
To summarise: for some years now the examination is selecting those who will ‘do or die’ not those who would ‘reason why’ and I suspect this is being done consciously. I hope I am wrong but to prove that one would need to open up the system for review. I can offer the following suggestion. First, all those who passed the most recent written examination should be administered a standard international test, ideally at the GRE level since the applicants have completed their undergraduate education. Given that there are only 200 applicants this would be quite affordable and would provide an immediate assessment against a global benchmark of the ability of individuals being inducted into the civil service.
Second, the CSS examination papers and a random sample of answer books of successful candidates should be given to an international panel representing the selection boards of a number of countries, like the UK, France and Singapore, with highly regarded civil services. The panel would be charged with identifying weaknesses in the CSS selection system and with recommending appropriate changes.
The intellectual calibre of the civil service is a key attribute in its ability to implement the programmes on which the future of the country depends. It is dangerous to start off forcing applicants to dissemble to enter the service and necessary to ensure that their selection screens for the skills and talents need to be effective. A genuine commitment to civil service reform would be alert to these dangers.
The writer moderates The South Asian Idea Weblog.
Published in Dawn December 20th, 2016