Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The New Hullabaloo Over the Civil Service Exam

Courtesy news media, it has surfaced  that certain sections of UPSC aspirants have demanded a roll back of the newly introduced curriculum of UPSC Civil Service Examination, especially the C-SAT.
It has been alleged by the protesters that the new exam pattern is detrimental to the interest of Hindi Medium candidates, which is rather unfounded.

Here is why-

Purpose of the Change-
Ø  Bureaucratic reforms have been felt to be a long standing necessity.

Ø  In rapidly changing global scenario, it was felt by experts, reforms in recruitment and training process would be harbinger of improvement in the quality of service. Of course, improvements in the procedures of public service is also another area of concern.

Ø  However, to appreciate the changing needs and bring about paradigm changes in service concepts, such people are required who are themselves dynamic, and skilled to face the challenges ahead in the changing time. Therefore, change was deemed necessary at recruitment and training stage.

Ø  The experts therefore, one thinks, developed a new or rather improved framework after much deliberation.

Ø  The pattern of exam sought to test candidates’ knowledge, understanding and aptitude in newly relevant topics such as environment, sustainable development, and public administration from a perspective of accountable public service.

Ø  It further stressed importance on candidates’ ability of application of knowledge in a considerably diverse range of subjects, rather than bulk of information or rote learning.

Issues regarding the changes-
Ø  However, there arose some issues of contention immediately after the new scheme was declared. In the process of changes, UPSC proposed to do away with such language mediums which were opted by very few numbers of candidates in the mains exam.

Ø  Their logic was to eliminate chances of dubious practices.

Ø  And UPSC further wanted to count the score of candidates in English Language.

Ø  However, it was alleged as detrimental to the interest of non-English medium background candidates.

Ø  In face of the protest, UPSC partly rolled back the proposal and in the finally introduced scheme, both English and one Indian Language paper, were designed to be merely of qualifying nature. And candidates were allowed to write the exam in their preferred medium as earlier.

Ø  In the preliminary exam, UPSC did away with the old scheme of one General Studies paper and one Optional Paper of rather academic nature, and instead came up with one General Studies Paper and one Aptitude paper.

Ø  The Paper 2, i.e. the aptitude test consisted of many things including basic numeric, mental & reasoning ability, decision making ability which often refers to practical situations a civil servant would face, communication & comprehension skills and basic English language.

Ø  It may be noted that all the questions, except those to test English language skills, in the aptitude paper including comprehension and communication skills are set in both English and Hindi.

Ø  The idea is to test the aptitude one should possess to be a twenty first century civil servant. The Communication & comprehension test is designed to test such skills in whichever of the languages the candidates are comfortable with, not necessarily English.

Ø  The questions of English language section are of course set in English. But numbers of such questions set to test specifically English language skill of candidates have been only  9/80 (2011), 8/80  (2012) and 8/80 (2013) in three years. It may be noted that in other exams like Bank POs, and even in exams like SSC Graduate Level exam meant to fill up posts in middle & lower civil service the proportion is 50/200.

Ø  Hence the allegation of elitist bias against non-English medium candidates is clearly unfounded.

Ø  It has been alleged, as reported in media, by the protesters that between 2005 and 2010, nearly 15% successful candidates in the elite services were from Hindi background that has been reduced to 2.3% in 2013.” And also that "In 2013, of the total 1,122 successful civil service candidates merely 26 are from Hindi-medium background".

Ø  However this might be more due to lack of aptitudes, and those skills regarding dynamic application of knowledge that experts and UPSC deemed necessary requisites for a new age civil servant.

Ø  The old system was reviewed because it was not giving desired results, and after experts’ deliberation the reform was introduced to weed out the chaff from the wheat.

Ø  If the reform would give the same result then what is the point of reform other than mere rhetoric?

Ø  Yes, of course the purpose should be having an efficient bureaucracy and not merely to eliminate people.

Ø  And considering the protests UPSC had already come up with a two year relaxation ( 6 attempts in place of 4, and consequently 32 years in place of 30 years ) in eligibility condition when it notified Civil Service Exam 2014, understandably for a temporary measure for 2-3 years from now. Which means, while UPSC wants specific skills ( which is not only language as it is alleged by a section ), it also understands the problems of candidates in such threshold period and hence have given them ample time of two more years to adopt, acquire and hone such skills.

Ø  Hence the complaints are baseless and in a way reflect the general status quo aversion to any kind of reform.

Ø  It may also be noted that any further change would also pose newer complications to candidates, as any change requires a minimum time to adjust. There have already been three CSATs and one Main examination in the new pattern.

Ø  Since Civil Service preparation takes time any new change will further upset the interest of those candidates who have been slowly but steadily adjusting themselves to the new scheme, rather than complaining about it. Again reverting to the old would frustrate many candidates left with marginal attempts as well as new candidates.

Ø  After all, arrangements may be and have been made, in terms of attempt and age limit,  so that the old order can adjust with the new.

Ø  But rolling back the system, as demanded by a section of people, would be arranging for the new order to relapse in the old.

Ø  It would also give the impression that the concerned authority had budged under majoritarian interest of Hindi medium candidates over that of all other candidates from different backgrounds in different states across India, rather than upholding the promises of new age governance.

1 comment:

Akriti Mattu said...

This blog post makes so much sense.I really hope no major changes are introduced.