CSS EXAM 2018 Another Test, but of FPSC this time (Editorial February 2017)

CSS EXAM 2018 Another Test, but of FPSC this time

Surah-20 Ta Ha/ Ayat 6: To Him belongs what is in the heavens and on earth, and all between them, and all beneath the soil.

Owing to the holding of the Competitive Examination for induction into the Central Superior Services (CSS), the month of February has special importance for the aspirants. Over the past 10 years or so, worrying trends have been witnessed regarding this prestigious exam. The element of competition CSS that has been the hallmark of this exam all through the years is gradually diminishing. And, the declining standard of education in Pakistan is taking a heavy toll in this regard.

There is no blinking at the fact that the educational system of Pakistan has been on a steep decline and that no sound and robust measures have been taken yet to ameliorate the situation. Although a bachelor’s degree has been set as a minimum benchmark to appear in CSS exam, a vast majority of our country’s graduates, who chance their arm in this exam, have no clue about what level of mental ability and what degree of knowledge is required to get through this very exam. And, this is one of the principal reasons cited by FPSC in its annual reports. In FPSC’s Annual Report 2015, the Chairman lamented the declining standards of higher education in the following words: “The pass percentage of the candidates in CSS 2015, feedback received from the examiners on the written scripts as well as the performance of the candidates observed by the Commission in interviews indicate that the standard of education remains below par. Competencies, performance and knowledge of the candidates remain average overall. It is a candid opinion of the Commission that education both in terms of conceptual clarity, learning and instruction is deteriorating. … Enhanced efforts are needed to collaborate with Universities/institutes of higher learning and Higher Education Commission to improve the standards of instruction and learning.”Although the assertion made in the report is not, at all, unfounded, yet when we look at the exam pattern for CSS, the story takes a dramatic turn as papers, especially those of Essay, and Précis and Composition, are set in a way that even a candidate who has a master’s in English degree would find it a real hard nut to crack; let alone an average graduate. Although owing to their lackluster approach on preparing for this competitive exam, aspirants, too, are responsible for this awkward situation, the bigger part of the onus, however, falls on the shoulders of FPSC.

It is in this backdrop that we would discuss the CSS 2018 Exam that is just around the corner.

Given the trend of the CSS examination during the recent years, it has been observed that mostly doctors, engineers, foreign-qualified individuals and graduates of private-sector institutions are getting allocated, to the detriment of ordinary aspirants having simple BA or MA degrees. Given this state of affairs, there is a pressing need to make papers simple and comprehensible to ordinary students – CSS 2017 English Précis paper contained vocabulary questions that were hard to find in a plethora of dictionaries – so that more and more of them could find an opportunity to vie for the coveted slots in the federal bureaucracy, which unfortunately, is increasingly turning into a club of officers belonging to the elite class of the country.

Another issue which FPSC must prioritize is the element of transparency in CSS papers. Last year, alleged leak of English Essay paper on social media created a lot of stir and riled many. Although the culprits were, reportedly, nabbed and legal action was taken against them, yet the results of that probe are still shrouded in mystery. All the protective measures to thwart the occurrence of any such incident must be taken because such episodes undermine the integrity of FPSC that has been its chief attribute.

It is also suggested that while evaluating the papers, the examiners should also keep in mind the standard of education prevailing in Pakistan. The criterion for marking should also be the same for all papers. It is always hard to believe that a person who secures 80+ marks in English Précis paper could get only 15-20 in the Essay paper. We have seen that some in some optional subjects, candidates were awarded excellent marks – more than ninety, in some instances – but the average score for many of them ranged between 55 and 60. It is unbelievable that in CSS 2017, out of 673 appearing in Agriculture and Forestry, 2968 in History of Pakistan and India and 6508 International Relations only one candidate each could secure more than sixty percent marks – in Muslim Law and Jurisprudence, surprisingly, there was none out of 1135 candidates could. Such anomalies must be removed this time.

In the end, it is apt to say that CSS 2018 is another exam, but this time it is the FPSC that will be taking it.

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