Civil service not in decline... By Sana
10 September, 2012
There is no reason to believe that Pakistan's bureaucracy is in trouble due to the content of the CSS examinations.
The usual, trite complaints are being put forward that CSS examinations are nothing but a means of testing the rote learning techniques of candidates, that innovative thinking is not encouraged and that there is a sinister, state-sponsored narrative that all candidates must ascribe to in order to be awarded high marks. The narrative seems to be riddled with contradictions, as learning is said to be the key to success, and then opposed by saying that there is no fixed answer to certain questions in the compulsory papers. This in itself indicates that such questions are broad based and subjective: it is up to the candidate's innate ability to use his knowledge to answer the questions.
In subjects where there is a fixed answer, it is stated that even if the fixed answer was incorrectly answered by the candidate, he should be given credit for the working of that answer, although the candidates who sit the examinations are not elementary or high school students but adults who know the consequences of an incorrect answer.
The English papers are of extremely high quality in that they test the reading, verbal and comprehension abilities of the candidates. The solution is not to dumb down the papers so that candidates can better attempt such papers (a la the SAT exams that allow students to 'work the system' according to the Kaplan and Princeton study guides) but to better the educational system of Pakistan.
The CSS examinations are a recruitment device for government servants at the highest levels of governance, nationally and internationally, and the papers should reflect this. It is not for nothing that these are called competitive examinations.
Additionally, the battery of psychological tests that a candidate must pass (before the interview and after the written examinations) mirrors England's Graduate Fast Stream. I take my hat off to anyone who after the combined triad of written examinations, psychological tests and interview is able to emerge in the top 200 out of thousands of candidates. It is hardly a feat to be sneered at.
SANA KHALID TIRMIZEY