The Federal public service commission (FPSC) is considered one of the credible commissions of the country. Annually, millions of applicants appear in the standardised exams conducted by the commission.
Recently, FPSC conducted the Central Superior Services (CSS) examination for the year 2019. Those who will qualify will be placed in any of the twelve occupational groups on a basic pay scale – seventeen. But when it comes to the CSS passing rate it hits hard to aspirants because 98 percent of candidates fail. Such a failure rate has not only spread chaos and uncertainty among students, but has also raised many questions about syllabi planning, actual papers taken by students and their result.
It is interesting to say that although the exam is conducted for the selection of the bureaucracy of Pakistan, the selection process does not follow the standards set by Max Weber — the father of ideal bureaucracy. Division of labour is an important element for efficiency, according to Weber; however, candidates of CSS exam are not selected according to their area of specialisation, neither are such standards needed for optional subject selection by students. This means students with any academic background can select any optional subjects and get placed in whatever occupational group he or she likes.
The measures provided by the International Civil Services Effectiveness Index should be used to check the performance of the Federal Public Services Commission
Additionally, syllabi scheme of provided fifty-one subjects is so comprehensive that aspirants are unable to distinguish between the contents of each subject. This includes the contents of International Relations, Political Science, History of USA, European History and International Law. All overlap thus candidates preparing for an International Relations exam can expect questions from International Law. Same is the case with other subjects such as Public Administration and Governance and Public Policy. In the recently held papers of 2019, questions related to the country’s foreign policy were asked in four different subjects, while the questions related to constitution making, functionality and performance were asked in Political Science and not in the Constitutional Law exam. Such a dilemma!
Furthermore, in the 2016 ‘Civil Services Reforms’, new subjects such as Gender Studies, Criminology, Town planning and Urban Management and many other subjects were added as optional so that students can opt for them and use their knowledge, after selection, to ameliorate administration of the country. Unfortunately, scoring trend in these subjects since 2016 has remained so poor that aspirants are currently thinking of not selecting these subjects. Therefore, it can explicitly be said that purpose of the 2016 reforms has not been fulfilled.
Such an uncertainty among young blood of Pakistan may cause frustration and kill their creativity. Commission should know that higher failure rate is already creating negative word of mouth (WOM) against scope and standard of CSS examination. This is the reason only 12,000 candidates appear in examination every year out of millions of graduates. Candidates intending to appear in examination have to prepare themselves throughout the year and have to wait eight more months for result of written part, their failure take them to distress not just because they are failed but because they have to wait 12 more months to get their desired result.
Chairman and Board of the commission should know and understand this critical situation and its impacts on aspirants together with the image of commission and overall on the country. Although many suggestions are asked from aspirants, in their papers such as in Essay and Public administration, for bringing civil services reforms and improving administration and governance in Pakistan yet, no remarkable initiative seems to have been taken for bringing improvement on administration side. Commission need to call a think tank meeting from all across the Pakistan to solve problems in the patterns and structure of examinations faced by her and also by candidates of CSS. Quick and Speedy reforms are needed to standardised examination and get good result. The following suggestions can be useful in this regard: Adopt the measures provided by the International Civil Services Effectiveness Index (InCiSE) and also use its assessment tools to check how Federal Public Services Commission (FPSC) is performing. Additionally, Government of Pakistan can seek state level help, to design a new framework for civil services of Pakistan, from Canada which is at top ranking in terms of Civil Services Effectiveness, according to InCiSE, 2017.
The writer is a Lecturer at Department of Management Sciences, NUML Multan