Historically, competitive exams form the backbone of good governance, meritocracy and delivery of civil service on doorstep. The Central Superior Services is the most grueling exam serving as an entry point into a career in top-notch public administration. The Chinese equivalent of CSS is Guokao, which is known as the “golden rice bowl” due to its stable pay and generous benefits.

Interestingly, in China majority of politicians come through this exam and secure membership in the ruling Communist Party.

In Pakistan, the plummeting collapse of CSS is both alarming and an eye-opener, reflecting a host of complex challenges and their solutions. This downward trajectory confirms a long-term, generational decline of our crumbling state institutions. This emanates from stultified education systems, absence of professional career counseling, faulty and centralized assessment and recruiting mechanism, language conundrum, rote-learning, etc.

Taking clinical overview of the FPSC annual reports, lack of creativity and originality, mental analytical skills, objective and critical approach, chronic inability to understand issues, no grounding in diverse subjects, poor presentation skills based on biased subjectivity and crammed materials obtained from available stereo-type sources are the major causes of abysmal failure in CSS. Candidates could not produce answers in good writing skills.

According to Professor Mazhar, queries project two dimensions i.e. intellectual and practical and mostly candidates provide haphazard reply rather than maintaining balance between intellectual and practical part of the questions perhaps due to their weak knowledge and writing skills.

Rather than developing motor and bricks infrastructure in educational sector, there is dire need for revamping the syllabus, teaching methods and research culture. In the wake of the 18th amendment, the federal and provincial units need to devise robust mechanism for ensuring quality and making higher education commissions independent and autonomous.

The premier recruiting body, the FPSC, be overhauled by introducing consistent strategies regarding paper setting, marking and scheduling of papers. For this, the success story of India Civil Services could be replicated. Across-the-board inclusion of minorities and women can make it more representative and service-oriented. The FPSC, HEC and the universities should design career counseling programs focused on better preparation techniques, and interlinking disciplines and subjects. Academic exams must be focused on repeated tests and grading, a bid to improve critical writing skills. Regional disparity is another anathema.

Every year, many candidates from Punjab make it to the top ranks in comparison to other regions. The assessment techniques and structure of examination should be reformed from stem to stern in a bid to judge the candidates’ intellectual ability. It should discourage students from memorizing the state-sponsored narrative and adherence to extremely narrow ideology. The grading of the CSS exam should be centralized, uniform and standard by judging candidates’ core qualities of analysis, communication, execution and the ability to deliver properly.

HIRA MEHMOOD,

Karachi, June 17.