We produce CSP officers like zombies. Those who fail the zombie test end up becoming teachers

Insanity has many forms, and is manifested in countless ways. There is an English saying that ‘excess of everything is bad’. Perhaps it is not always bad. Sometimes it reaches to a point where it is likely to be considered madness. Insanity is not always something natural; in many cases it is a matter of choice.

Take the example of Pakistan. There are either doctors or engineers. And now CSPs. Almost every mother in Pakistan wishes to see her son as a medical doctor or an engineer. Similarly, in social sciences – although now it is not limited only to social sciences – four out of five students plan to be CSPs. The CSS exam, therefore, becomes a matter of life and death for them. These students are generally known as ‘CSS aspirants’. This is how insanity becomes a matter of someone’s choice.

As always in 2016 the final result of CSS exam brought a heated debate on social as well as print media. Different opinions have been presented and various arguments have been constructed to highlight the factors which need immediate attention of the government.

First, many candidates fail in the exam because of their poor academic background and that is mainly due to the ineffective education system of Pakistan. Ironically, students are not trained to think critically or to construct logical arguments in order to present their case in an intellectually sophisticated manner. Therefore, Pakistan’s education system immediately needs to be comprehensively reformed.

Two, the selection process designed by the Federal Public Service Commission is not up to the mark. Instead of evaluating candidates’ intellectual capabilities it encourages memorization. To put it simply, memorization has been institutionalized by the FPSC knowingly or knowingly. This trend is greatly discouraging creative students from becoming a part of bureaucracy. Therefore, the process of the CSPs’ selection should be revised and improved according to needs of the 21st century.

Third, CSS exam has become a joke because of the academies which claim to prepare any student for the exam within six or eight months. There are ‘notes’ prepared by different teachers and CSPs, available in every academy. A candidate is supposed to attend the classes and memorize what is written in these ‘notes’ even without properly understanding them. To bring about any change in the existing system the first thing should be the abolishment of these academies.

These are the main arguments or the reasons behind the decline of CSS identified by different professors and journalists.

But some CSPs couldn’t digest these opinions of the experts and journalists. In response they bashed those who are criticizing the process of the selection or questioning Pakistan’s ‘flawed’ education system. Successful candidates belong to different backgrounds and possess the required level of intelligence, stated the CSPs. Those criticizing the FPSC and Pakistan’s education system are either naïve or envious of their success, they added.

The response of these CSPs convinced us – despite their verbose arguments – that they had learnt English language and some very difficult words. I appreciate them for that.

The questions, however, are: is there really any problem in the process of selection of the CSPs? Is the system only producing zombies? If yes, then where does the problem lie?

There is no denying of the fact that there is something really wrong with the process of the selection as well as the education system of Pakistan. As a matter of personal experience, I have interacted with a few newly-selected CSPs on social media and have read their Facebook posts. I also watched some videos of one or two CSPs (I hope many of you have watched them too.).

What I concluded after all that is:

  1. It is important to learn difficult words of English language
  2. One is expected to be an expert of Pakistani version of history of the world, and particularly of the sub-continent
  3. It is more important to memorize books than to analyze them in a critical way
  4. It is almost impossible to clear CSS exam with attending a few academies (although there are a few successful students who reject this notion)
  5. ‘They’ need officers, not creative students of politics, law or governance. It means people who can submissively say yes-minister are required, not those unruly intellectuals who question.

Pakistan’s education system suffers from a number of problems. But the point I want to make in this piece is neither about the curricula nor about the students’ intellectual development at the educational institutions. I have a rather different argument.

Do we talk about the selection process of teachers at any level? Do we bother about the selection process of the teachers at our campuses as we talk about the CSS exam and its flaws? Did we ever even think how our teachers are selected? Did we ever suggest any improvement in this regard? Have many articles been written in this regard?

The answer to these questions is probably a big No. The reason behind this is quite simple. Teaching is a profession for those people who have some skills, and a fair amount of information, but are unluckily not able to become CSPs. CSPs are, on the other hand, the most powerful individuals, in a society likes ours, where intellectual power matters but physical power matters more. Being a CSP means everything in Pakistani society. Therefore, teachers’ selection is not that much important.

The point is that it is a foolish to wish to have competent CSPs, but individuals having extraordinarily ordinary intellectual capabilities at the campuses. I, however, do not mean in any way to equate the two. The requirement to be a CSP is absolutely different to what is mandatory to be a teacher. The point is how much importance do we accord to the selection process of those who train students to become CSPs.

It is insane to overly think about the selection process of the CSPs. We need to spare some time to think about the selection of teachers and also to ponder upon as to who becomes a teacher.  The choice is ours.

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