National Crisis: Why Only 3Pct Among Thousands Appearing In Public Services Exams Pass

Deficiency in critical thinking, analytical approach and written skills, while a culture of notes and cramming pervade the system.

JUL 2, 2018 (BE2C2): The recent announcement of results by the Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) once again exposed the inadequacies in quality of education in Pakistan. According to the result, just a little over three per cent of all candidates were able to qualify the Central Superior Services (CSS) examinations of 2017 by securing the minimum passing marks. Figures show a total of 9,391 candidates appeared in the written examination of the year 2017; out of them only 310 candidates, including 199 males and 111 females, finally qualified.

The results of the CSS exams have been facing decline for several years, as 3.33pc candidates qualified the exam in 2014, 3.11pc in 2015 and 2.06pc in 2016. The percentage of candidates qualifying the written test has come down from 9.75% in 2011 to 3.3 % in 2017.

According to the Annual Report of FPSC 2016, a large number of vacancies i.e 95 vacancies out of 333, remained unfilled due to the reason that candidates from respective quotas could not pass the competitive examination, and examiners as well as Oral Exam board of the Commission shared concerns on declining standard of education.

Examiners’ Assessment Reports for CSS CE 2015 and 2016 observed that low level of general knowledge; poor written expression, grammatical mistakes and lack of analytical approach were some of the main reasons for dismal performance of candidates in competitive exams.

The country has witnessed mushroom growth of colleges — there are now 189 public and private sector universities under the ambit of Higher Education Commission (HEC), but at the same time, illiteracy rate has been rising among the populace aged 15 and above for more than a decade — considered a paradox.

For continuous induction of best minds in government agencies and the bureaucracy, the scheme of syllabi (1981) for competitive examination was reviewed by the Commission in 2015.

The Commission conducted the CSS CE 2016 based on the new syllabi which includes six new optional subjects viz Governance and Public Policy, Criminology, Gender Studies, Environmental Sciences, Anthropology and Town Planning & Urban Management were added to the list. Besides, Comparative Study of Major Religions was introduced for non-Muslims. Optional subjects were also regrouped to provide level playing field to both students of natural sciences and social sciences.

Taking notice of the decline in quality of CSS results over the years, newly appointed Chairman HEC Dr. Tariq Banuri termed the decline as national crisis.

Several national and international assessments and reviews have already highlighted flaws in the overall education system of Pakistan.

The education instuitions –early childhood through higher learning need to pay special attention towards improving critical thinking and analytical approach and discouraging culture of notes, tuitions, and cramming. At the same time, remedial courses addressing the poor writing skills and low level of general knowledge should be offered for the students at an early stage. The education intuitions and parents should encourage reading habits. While an early warning system should be in place to detect such deficiencies during child growth and at different stages of youth education.

How other countries process the selection of civil servants should also be considered. Additionally, bringing meaningful structural reforms in the education sector and civil services will help achieve desired results.

A second look at educational vision of the country vis-a-vis others in the region is critically needed. There’s a yawning difference — between functionalism in our approach, and the holistic approach others have adopted to develop theirs as knowledge-based, not just trade-based employment-centric education system.

As experts have been saying over the last so many years, there indeed is an “education emergency” in the country — not just water and economic crisis.

(Based on study by Irshad Salim Associates and original report written by Muhammad Murtaza Noor. He is a freelance columnist associated with the development and education sector.)

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