Competitive Examinations: Illusions and Realities

Tajwar Ali

Colonial masters introduced Civil Services in almost all those colonies where they ruled atrociously. In Indo-Pak, Civil Service was introduced as Indian Service (IS) to select able bureaucrats to perform the daily business of government. From the very beginning, these services were considered a sign of great respectability. Unfortunately, some countries like Pakistan adopted the same procedure of colonial civil services and never brought reform in that system. The system of competitive examinations is full of loopholes and purely an original gift of colonial master England. Currently the old system of competitive examination is itself creating teething troubles for the aspirants of these exams. A student asked the Supreme Court of Pakistan to take Suo moto notice of amending qualifying rules for CSS 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 by Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) by deleting the word ‘or’ from the qualifying rules. The qualifying criteria were changed in 2013 Central Superior Service (CSS) exams by the deletion of word “or” from the qualifying rule, unlawfully. Section 7A of the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) Ordinance 1977 clearly states that all the rules could not be amended with the prior approval of the federal government, but in this case, neither a proposal to change the rule was sent nor was it accorded by the prime minister. In this way passing a competitive examination has only became a game of luck.

A true educational revolution in Pakistan came during the tenure of Pervez Musharraf when he established Higher education Commission. Prior to that university education was not known in Pakistan. Great minds are growing in Pakistan and world records are being made. According to many bureaucrats poor standard of education is responsible for poor results in CSS but the reality is that educational standard in Pakistan has been increased after 2002 by making modern universities. Scoring 95% marks in board examination has become a common idea. The reality is that this old British inherited system of competitive examinations is not sufficiently suitable to judge the knacks of brilliant students. A very famous terminology used by aspirants while preparing civil service exam  like “Scoring subjects” and “non scoring subjects”, and all other old methods are obstacles in the way of talented students. In some subjects, students can score very well after doing a little bit hard work while in some subjects even a subject specialist cannot manage to pass. Now a day International Relations in competitive exams is considered as non-scoring subject. So what is the major sin of the students of International Relations? Many subject specialists like PhDs in International Relations hardly passed the subject in CSS 2017 and Combined Competitive Exam of Gilgit Baltistan (2017). Such trends spoil the capabilities of talented youth. Secondly, the process of examining papers poses many questions. One of our colleague, a PhD scholar in International Politics, scored 75 percent marks in the paper of Current Affairs in CSS 2016 and scored 34 percent marks in Current Affairs paper of CCE-GB 2017, and the later was comparatively much easier. While he was an excellent author of a famous book in International Relations. He had answered two questions, which appeared in the current affairs paper in his own book even before the examination.  Such cases show vivid variations in the process of examining papers. In government, this trend is also famous to select examiners based on favouritism to give financial benefits to their loved ones. As a result unable examiners asses the papers of candidates.

Combined Competitive Examination Gilgit Baltistan is conducted by the FPSC because Gilgit-Baltistan lacks its own Public Service Commission. The Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) in the style of CSS conducted CCE-GB 2017 and the final result of the examination came too late and raised many question marks on the credibility of the system. The result was quit unexpected, many talented and experienced aspirants who had passed CCE-GB (2011) with good marks were failed in this examination. Students of Social Sciences were given bad scores and students of Natural Sciences and especially forestry and veterinary Sciences were given good marks. Subjects like Political Science, International Relations and Histories remained non-scoring subjects and subjects of Natural Sciences remained scoring in this examination. The positions for which this exam was held were much more interrelated to Social Sciences. A student of social sciences can be an ideal administrator and a Development Officer because he studies society and its socio-political and economic issues. It is quite surprising to consider a Veterinary Doctor, an environmentalist, and a civil engineer much suitable for these positions of social sciences.

In such an examination where the concept of “scoring and non-scoring subjects” is existed, where the fee of evaluating papers is the typical government rate of 50 rupee per paper then it would be erroneous to say that only talented students can pass the examinations in such systems but only men of great luck can manage to pass. Without reform in the system of competitive examinations, the system will continue to make a fuss of talented graduates of the country. At least the wages of paper checking should be increased to 500per paper to make the examiners more vigilant while examining the papers of competitive exams. The topper of previous year fails the exam of next year so this is the order of the current system of examination. Few changes are compulsory to hunt the real talent from the society. For Gilgit-Baltistan, there should be a Public Service Commission of her own because FPSC takes decades to conduct one competitive exam and FPSC looks non-serious in the case of Gilgit-Baltistan. The New government is expected to create a new system of competitive examination to make a new Pakistan.

The contributor is a PhD scholar at IIU, Islamabad. 

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