Dawn newspaper on December 12, 2018 reported that “the Senate Standing Committee on Cabinet Secretariat on Tuesday directed the Establishment Division to provide the results of all Central Superior Services (CSS) exams and seat allocations since 2008.” This came about when the chairman of the standing committee was informed that the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) rules had been forged with leading to poor CSS results.
The Senator mentioned that due to the change in rules the percentage of students passing the exams have fallen to 2pc or 3pc from 15pc before 2012. He said, “because of the decision, most of the successful candidates are from Punjab and just a few candidates from the other provinces clear the exam. On the other hand, an impression is made that candidates from the smaller provinces are not competent enough.” The Senator mentioned that he had learned that the marketing criteria had been changed on the prime minister’s directions but they were actually changed by forging documents. “I direct the Establishment Division to submit all records and in case forgery is discovered, the committee will involve the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA)”, he said.
This report highlights some major issues with CSS exams structure. Without a doubt the results have been deteriorating over the years and if the results have actually been forged to increase the number of successful candidates from one particular province then it is a matter of concern and requires immediate action. However, such issues are not new to us and the worsening condition of education level in Pakistan is also known to everyone. These issues have also been raised on mainstream media in the past and a number of debates have been held in order to come up with the most effective solutions. Hopefully the Senate standing committee, FPSC and the Government as a whole will resolve these issues because a strong bureaucracy based on merit is an indicator of a strong and capable state.
However, the news reminded me of my personal experience of attempting the exams this year. After more than six months of intense day and night study sessions I found one of the venues allotted by the commission to be an utter disappointment. The venue for the exam was a government run college. Applicants were stacked up in small rooms. The chairs were extremely uncomfortable and the size of the desks did not allow one to keep the question paper and the answer sheet on it at the same time. God help those who opted for extra answer sheets. Electricity was a rare visitor and Generator or UPS was not available. Bureaucrats in the making, ladies and gentleman.
To be fair to FPSC, I have no complaints about the other venue that was allotted to me. That venue was the provincial head office of the FPSC.
Surprisingly, not much has been written or said about the change brought in the CSS syllabus in 2016. The change included revising syllabus of subjects, introducing some new subjects and revising subject group structure. The entire change is worthy of appreciation and such updates should be introduced with time. However, going through the updated syllabus is an interesting task. It has the capability to shock you as to how casual the FPSC can be when it comes to CSS exams.
The purpose of a syllabus is to remove uncertainty as to what to study and what to leave out but not in this case. The very first topic for the subject ‘History of the USA’ is “from ANCIENT times to 1492”. I still have a problem trying to understand as to how ancient a student is supposed to go. The syllabus of the compulsory subject ‘General Science and Ability’ has the word “etc.” in it. Maybe the examiner was tired of writing the syllabus and decided to let the students determine what to study. On one hand it is said that command over the English language is the most important aspect of the exams and on the other hand there are punctuation marks mistakes in the syllabus. Furthermore, at one place LED is placed under the category of “renewable” source of energy. Apparently the revised syllabus was counterchecked. This is the level of carelessness when it comes to preparing and selecting people to run the bureaucracy of the state.
One needs to understand that the Central SUPERIOR Services exams are considered to be the most prestigious state exams in our country. These exams were introduced by the British in undivided India. The system has evolved over the years and has undergone several changes since the creation of Pakistan. Those who clear the entire process are given the task of running the state machinery. Every aspect of this process has to be carefully designed since bureaucracy is an essential pillar of the state. There is no invisible hand playing a part in bringing down the education level in Pakistan it is our own policies and careless approach.