The exam for Central Superior Services, better known by its abbreviation CSS, is often considered as a rollercoaster that can Change Social Status, or as a pathogen that afflicts Chronic Sadistic Syndrome. Nevertheless, it is the most popular non-degree examination which allures candidates hailing from all corners of our country, without any distinction of religion or ethnicity (though there is a quota based segregation when it comes to allocation). For the past few years, an exponential increase in the number of candidates has forced the FPSC to brainstorm improvements in the examination procedure. After many speculations, new reforms have finally surfaced with no procedural change, but with convulsive alterations in the exam’s contents. The purpose of this reform, in the words of the FPSC, is to ‘align the subjects and syllabi of the CSS exam’ which is well-phrased and reflects all the changes made therein, precisely.
First, is the alignment or regrouping of subjects, or, more specifically, of the optional subjects. Previously, groups were structured so that similar subjects fell under the same group, for example, all law subjects were placed in one group, philosophy and psychology were placed together in another group, and so on. It encouraged candidates to look for subjects with more commonalities, or which could be cross-referenced. Previously, doctors used to opt for subjects related to biology, while students of arts used to take “refuge” in subjects related to the languages and social sciences. So, FPSC has come up with a new strategy in which one can select only one subject from each group. According to this scheme “unpopular” and “popular” subjects have been segregated in such a manner that one cannot take all of the “popular” subjects freely and he must opt for the “unpopular” subjects, too. But this strategy has not successfully achieved its end as popular subjects among MBAs, CAs and economics students like business administration, statistics and economics have not been placed together rather placed in three different groups so that one can select each one of them. This dichotomy on one side has curbed options for candidates with science and arts backgrounds, while providing wider leeway for those with an economics background.
Ironically, in the previous format, one could not select business administration and economics together. Candidates have already started satirizing and ridiculing this stark exception by reckoning that this measure might have been taken at the IMF’s behest, to induct more economists and auditors in order to covertly further their global ‘capitalization’ agenda.
Moreover, there is another intrinsic flaw in the present regrouping which has practically made the first two groups compulsory because the required marks count cannot be achieved unless at least one subject is selected from those groups. To add insult to injury, those groups house mostly science or economics subjects like economics, computer science, statistics, mathematics, physics, chemistry, etc.. In short, FPSC’s new strategy seems to be hastily or nonchalantly contrived, leaving behind loopholes which resultantly defeat its ultimate objective.
Second in the list of reforms is the introduction of new subjects, which is a reformative measure in the real sense. Subjects like governance and public policy, town planning and urban management, gender studies, and criminology have been added to the pool of subjects, respecting exigencies of a public service job. But there’s still a catch: not only have subjects – or even topics – concerning the development of rural areas been totally ignored, but the formerly separate subjects of agriculture and forestry have also been condensed and coalesced; exhibiting their true position in the eyes of policymakers.
The third feature of the recent CSS reforms is the revision of syllabi. Pertaining to compulsory subjects, most of the changes are “revolutionary”. For example, in Islamic Studies, the Islamic aspect of good governance and public administration has been added, and in General Science, logical and analytical reasoning will cover a significant portion of the overall paper. However, syllabus of Pakistan Affairs has been revamped in a manner that has obscured its distinction in contrast with Current Affairs, another compulsory subject. On the other hand, the syllabi for optional subjects has not been changed much, but the total marks – for some “popular subjects”– have been drastically scaled down. For instance, Geography, which previously carried 200 marks has been scaled down to 100 marks without properly adjusting its syllabus. Now candidates would have to prepare both portions of physical and human geography consuming the same time and energy but with half the reward. Such ignorance raises many bitter questions.
One more auxiliary issue has been left unaddressed by FPSC: paper patterns of all subjects have not been clearly mentioned in the new announcement, for example, what would be the ratio of MCQs in the General Science paper, with respect to its subjective portion? The FPSC should understand that owing to massive changes, candidates are not left with much guidance, therefore unelaborated changes will only generate rumours and promote wild conjectures.
After a categorical appraisal, it is evident that FPSC is moving in the right direction albeit it has to scrupulously and prudently remove all shortcomings which might obstruct the achievement of its aspired goals, lest these reforms should discourage, dishearten or even repel prospective – as FPSC has phrased it – ‘quality fabric for the Civil Service’. To state it in an audacious manner: though with ostensibly positive intentions, these new CSS reforms are themselves deformed!
Amar Jajja is an electrical engineer, law graduate and currently a CSS aspirant.