ISLAMABAD: The disappointing results of this year’s competitive exam for civil services cast a pall over the education sector and left both students and the top recruiter shell-shocked. So much so that the Federal Public Service Commission, which conducts the exam for Central Superior Services, or CSS, decided to diagnose the problem. In an attempt to identify any flaws and failures in the system, the FPSC will begin consulting the Higher Education Commission (HEC) and academies.
In 2016, as many as 9,643 candidates sat the written test of CSS. Alarmingly however, only 202, or 2.09%, qualified, the rest failed the test. This is the lowest percentage of successful students since 2011.
“We have agreed to consult the HEC, education experts and people from academia to find out reasons for the increasingly disappointing results,” a senior official of the FPSC told The Express Tribune. The percentage of candidates qualifying the written test has come down from 9.75% in 2011 to 2.09% in 2016.
In 2015, a total of 12,176 sat the CSS written test, but only 439 passed, while only 377 qualified the interview. Similarly, 24,640 candidates applied for the written test in 2014 against 315 vacancies. Of them, only 233 managed to clear all tests.
“We will try to find out whether the problem is with the exam method, paper pattern or there are reasons other than that at play,” said the official who didn’t wish to be identified in the report. “We’ll make a thorough assessment to get to the bottom of the problem. The candidates might have been disturbed by group combinations for selection of subjects that were changed by FPSC, according to the official.
Interestingly, the number of posts against which the candidates applied has gone up from 185 in 2005 to 333 in 2015. Apart from that, the total vacant seats, including those reserved for minorities and women, are also increasing. In 2015, there were 95 vacant posts, while in 2014, 2013 and 2011, there were 82, 71 and 45 vacancies, respectively.
Moreover, the number of vacant posts reserved for minority candidates has also gone up as only five slots have been filled during the last three years. In 2013, there were 25 such vacancies, while in 2014 the numbers went up to 36 and to 44 in 2015. Also, 82 posts reserved for women have been lying vacant since 2013.
In its annual reports, the FPSC keeps identifying the challenges it faces in the competitive exams and the way out. Two years ago, the top recruiter suggested that a compulsory screening test for appearing in the written test – but the suggestion has been pending with the Establishment Division since then. The FPSC believes that the screening test will allow it to scrutinise the candidates at the initial step and pick out the serious ones only.
In its 2014 report, the FPSC depicted a depressing picture of competence of candidates which is now consistently being mentioned in every annual report. “The standard of performance reflected that the majority did not know the strategies of making precise and reproduced the original language of the passage,” it says in connection with the candidates’ proficiency in English.
Reports of the last three years have repeatedly been stating that the overall competence of candidates in General Knowledge is low and majority of candidates lack basic writing skills while their writing suggests crammed knowledge.
Moreover, the report adds that “very few [candidates] had a conceptual approach [about Pakistan Affairs]”.
The reports consistently carry subject-wise performance of candidates and point out flaws in the system which needs to be improved.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 12th, 2016.