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Old Friday, November 25, 2016
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Default Discussing the 98 per cent failure in the CSS exams

Discussing the 98 per cent failure in the CSS exams

By Mohammad Ali Babakhel

It’s fine to celebrate success but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure – Bill Gates

The recent 98 per cent failure of the candidates in the written part of the competitive examination (CE) is deplorable — but is it the failure of the candidates or could it be attributed to other factors?

Does it depict flaws in our education system? Does it depict poor professional counselling of students? What about the role of the parents? Does it also demonstrate the flaws in the talent hunting apparatus? Also why does success in the CSS examination primarily dependent upon proficiency in the English language? Why are specific talent hunting programmes not tailored for professional groups like the Police service of Pakistan and Foreign Service of Pakistan? Are our universities imparting knowledge or merely awarding degrees? Why are universities failing to promote creativity? Despite the mushroom growth in the number of universities, the question arises as to what is the reason for such a dismal scenario? If universities churn out such talent how FPSC alone be held responsible for high percentage of failure?

According to the recent results, only 202 candidates qualified for the written part of the exam. 20717 candidates applied for the examination and only 9643 appeared. In CE 2013,15998 candidates applied, 11447 appeared and 238 were declared successful in the written test. For CE-2013 FPSC interviewed 238 candidates against 266 advertised vacancies and finally 194 candidates were allocated thus 72 vacancies remained vacant. For CE-2014, FPSC interviewed 377 candidates against 315 advertised vacancies but finally 233 candidates were allocated thus 82 vacancies remained unfilled. The remaining one-fourth of the vacancies unfilled in a country with one of the highest unemployment rate is a matter of grave concern. Such vacancies primarily remained unfilled owing to non-availability of suitable candidates from within the minority sector, smaller provinces and women.

During CE-2013, out of the total 72 unfilled slots, 25 were reserved for women, 25 for minorities and 22 open dependent on merit. Out of the total 25 unfilled women seats, 14 remained vacant in Sindh and out of total 25 seats for minorities, 12 remained vacant in Punjab. To make civil service more representative and service oriented, the FPSC needs to ensure inclusion of minorities and women as per available quota.

In CE-2013, 67 per cent of total allocated seats were captured by second and third time repeaters hence it transpires that after better preparation, change of subjects, guidance and improvement in presentation skills, they actually performed well. The performance of repeaters also suggests that the FPSC and universities should jointly design career counselling programmes.

In 2011, 13,071 candidates applied while 9,063 appeared; on the contrary, 24,640 candidates applied and 13,170 appeared in 2014. The final result in 2011 was 8.67 per cent while in 2014, the result was only 2.86 per cent. Though in three years time, the applicants were doubled but as compared with the results of 2011, 67 per cent downward result has been noticed in 2014.

For CE-2014, 24,640 aspirants applied but only 13,170 appeared thus it depicts that a majority of them were either not serious or they treated it as an examination of chance or luck. In the annual report of 2014, the FPSC identified the lack of analytical skills, critical approach, inability to comprehend issues, non-familiarity with subjects and poor presentation based on illogical arguments with wrong or irrelevant data as few reasons of failures.

Though universities are the best places to prepare young graduates for competitive examinations but in recent rankings, only three universities made place in the top 800 universities. Majority of the graduates are dependent upon the reproduction of information and get degrees. The aspirants shall realise, in time, that the CSS is not an academic examination but rather a competitive examination that requires quality, quantity and problem-solving approaches.

Still though, the CSS examination is the only talent assessment process that enjoys unimpeachable credibility, hence the FPSC should not act purely as a bureaucratic organisation but an adaptable modern talent hunting body. Ideally, the FPSC should establish an institutional network with leading universities, ministries and departments for whom it hunts the talent.

The recent introduction of subjects like Governance and Public Policy, Town Planning and Urban Development, Gender Studies, Environmental Science, Criminology and Anthropology is a positive measure that will improve the quality of intake. Research wing of FPSC should opt for a more diagnostic approach and also focus on studying the global practices.

We as Pakistani citizens need to encourage a debate as to why a candidate who opted for general subjects like language, history and sociology may land in the Pakistan Administrative Service or the Police but a candidate opting for international relations, US history, public administration, criminology and international law either fails or may be placed in information group.

Though in CE-2014, 53 per cent candidates opted for Journalism as an optional subject the results were disappointing. The Annual Report (AR) of FPSC 2014 observed that the “performance of the majority of the candidates was poor.” During 2014, 40 per cent candidates opted for Sociology. Though Sociology remained the second most popular optional subject but regarding the performance of candidates, the AR 2014 expressed “It seemed that candidates run after guides etc. or to shortcuts available in the markets.” In “Everyday Science about half of the candidates did not secure even 30 per cent marks. Regarding poor performance in Pakistan Affairs, the report observed that “Only five per cent candidates attempted seriously.”

Though after the 18th amendment, the quality of education in the smaller province was expected to soar, statistical data of results speaks otherwise. Domicile-wise performance shows that among the top 100 positions, candidates from Punjab got 77, K-P 7 and Sindh also got 7 positions. In such ranking, candidates from AJK obtained 2 seats, Fata obtained 2 and Balochistan obtained 5. Such poor performance should be a guiding principle for the bureaucracy of smaller provinces to devise improved strategies for educational development and prepare the youth for competitive examination and challenges being confronted.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 25th, 2016.
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