Op-ed: Reforming the CSS exam system

Prevalent methods used to pass the CSS exam with flying colours are several. Under the tutelage of some experienced CSS mentors, who had joined the civil service, one of the most popular methods taking rounds in various CSS groups has six components

css exam

Examiners are overburdened and they cannot cross-check any given fabricated facts and figures. In this way, examiners can be hoodwinked into believing the phony preparedness of candidates. This has been a reigning formula opening a way for shrewd and dissembling candidates to join the civil service of Pakistan. css exam 

The dismal performance of Pakistan’s civil service is now known to all Pakistanis. When the examination system permits the shrewd and dissembler pass through it successfully, the fate of such civil service is predictable.

After every six months, advisor to the government on civil service forms, Dr Ishrat Hussain announces that reforms are needed in the examination system of the Central Superior Service (CSS).

Classifying the CSS inductees into generalists and specialists  

Certainly, the bureaucratic structure and system cannot undergo transformation, if the induction process is not overhauled. In the heart of the matter sits the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) that conducts a yearly examination of CSS for recruitment in Basic Pay Scale 17. If the induction process is flawed, recruitment cannot contribute to any reform agenda.

Dr Ishrat Hussain has been announcing time and again that a four-stage system of examination would be introduced. Stage 1 would hold the initial screening test. Stage 2 would conduct cluster-based specialized recruitment. Stage 3 would hold psychometric evaluation. Stage 4 would arrange final interviews of shortlisted candidates.

Read More: Why Civil Services Reforms are confusing?

Of these proposed stages, Stages 1 and 2 are new, and these are meant for affecting the recruitment system. For the proposed reformed system, Hussain has forwarded two main justifications: First, the number of CSS candidates appearing each year has been exceeding the limit of a fair evaluation of every candidate done by the FPSC.

Second, after passing the CSS examination, candidates join the service groups which are mismatched to their own professional background. The result is that the recruited officers remain dependent on the lower staff for performance in the service.

An interesting picture regarding the CSS applicants 

Currently, the FPSC conducts the CSS examination in February each year. The examination is taken by thousands of CSS candidates from across the country. Regarding the number of applicants, an interesting picture has emerged. In 2019, around 23,000 candidates applied but around 15,000 actually appeared in the examination. Of them, only 372 cleared the examination making the pass ratio standing at 2.56 percent.

In 2020, around 39, 000 candidates applied but around 23,000 appeared in the examination. To conduct this examination, the FPSC established 210 centers in 19 cities across the country.

So far, in the history of Pakistan, CSS-2020 witnessed the highest number of candidates applied and appeared. The reason is simple: candidates wanted to evade the tyranny of reforms making the initial screening test compulsory and forcing candidates to fall into cluster-based specialized service groups.

Read More: Politicization of Civil Services in Pakistan

Obviously, if the announced reforms are not introduced, CSS-2021 would also experience a similar trend of higher number of applicants.

Dr Ishrat Hussain’s announcement in 2019 to bring about reforms in the CSS exam system followed by his idleness to initiate and implement the publicized reforms has fazed the CSS candidates. The incumbent government has completed its first two years but no much flaunted reforms have been introduced in the recruitment process of the FPSC.

Prevalent conditions of the CSS exam 

Prevalent methods used to pass the CSS exam with flying colours are several. Under the tutelage of some experienced CSS mentors, who had joined the civil service, one of the most popular methods taking rounds in various CSS groups has six components. First, for English essay, write an impressive outline to mesmerize the examiner who has no time to read the whole answer sheet.

Second, for the English Precis and Composition paper, there is no need to build vocabulary; instead, use “Akar Bakar Bombay Bo” formula to select the right answer in the given multiple choice questions.

Third, for the Current Affairs’ paper, stop reading newspapers two months before the examination, since the paper had been formulated by then.

Fourth, fill pages and use answer sheets as many as possible in every paper, as examiners get impressed by this feat.

Fifth, draw maximum diagrams and flow charts in answering every question, as the examiner does not bother and has time read the full answer.

Sixth, mention facts and references as many as possible, even if they were fabricated, as the overloaded examiner would not cross-check them.

The six points give a glimpse of the loopholes available to betray the examination system and hence to defeat the spirit of the examination. Nevertheless, the central idea in all the six tips is one: develop a method to deceive the examiner who is overburdened and short of time. When these shenanigans – the six tips – are employed to pass the examination and join the civil service, the quality of bureaucratic creed available to run the country is fathomable.

Read More: POLITICIZATION OF CIVIL SERVICES IN PAKISTAN

Dr Ishrat Hussain wants to introduce a reformed CSS exam system

Against this background, the CSS-examination system that Dr Ishrat Hussain wants to introduce has its own merits.

The screening test, or stage 1, would be having objective-type questions to winnow out under-prepared candidates from the competitive rest. The pass marks can be raised to seventy percent to achieve the target of only prepared candidates qualify for the next stage. The computer can check objective-type questions to deliver the result within a fortnight.

For the theoretical subjective examination, or stage 2, there would be available a manageable limited number of candidates, the answer sheets of whom would be checked thoroughly and justice would be done with the efforts of each candidate.

At stage 2, a drop in the number of candidates would also lessen the chances of deception the candidates employ to hoodwink examiners. The best lot would be picked up with awarding high marks to qualify for the next stage of psychometric evaluation.

The advantages of the proposed cluster-based specialized recruitment system deserve a separate column. Nevertheless, it is not known what is making Dr Ishrat Hussain balk at the initiation and implementation of his visualized and touted reforms.

The author is a freelance writer. The views expressed in this article are the authors own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.

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