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CSAT – Civil Service Examination controversy ~ Indian Politics

  By - Stephen   On 2014-08-01T08:16:00

<br /> CSAT – Civil Service Examination controversy<br /> ~<br /> Indian Politics – Interesting insights<br />

CSAT – Civil Service Examination controversy

CSAT – Civil Service Exmination
In the last week of July 2014, IAS
aspirants in North India went on a mass protest against the CSAT (Civil Service
Aptitude Test), introduced as the second paper in  the preliminary
examinations for the Civil Services.  This protest echoed in the
Parliament, leading to adjournments.
The Union Public Service Commission
(UPSC) is an independent body that selects candidates to various positions in
the Central Government. Earlier, the selection of suitable candidates
to the Indian Foreign Service (IFS), the Indian Administrative Service
(IAS), the Indian Police Service (IPS) and other allied services, were
done at two levels, viz. the main examination and the interview.  Since
several hundred thousand candidates applied for hundreds of posts, in 1979, UPSC
introduced a three-level system to select the candidates.
A preliminary examination was
conducted to select the candidates to the next level of screening, the main
examinations.  Out of the number of candidates writing the preliminary
examination, about twelve times the number of vacancies were selected for the
main examination.
In 2014, about 8 hundred thousand
candidates applied for the Civil Service examination. Usually, four to five hundred
thousand candidates write the preliminary examination. Though not declared
officially, there is an estimated 1200 vacancies. Nearly twelve times the
vacancies, i.e. 15,000 candidates might be selected from the preliminary exam,
to appear for the main examination.

In view of the growing number of IAS
aspirants, and the challenges faced in the administration, UPSC altered the
format of the preliminary examination by including a paper labelled ‘CSAT’
(Civil Service Aptitude Test) to test the seven critical skills as
comprehension, interpersonal skills, logical reasoning/analytical ability,
problem solving/decision making, mental ability, basic numeracy and data
interpretation.  This paper is set in the English language level of
Standard Ten.  There would be 80 objective-type questions for 200 marks.
 The candidates need to tick the correct answer from the options.
The Hindi translation is also
provided under each question, so that the candidates can answer either in
English or in Hindi. Just 8 questions (out of 80) test the simple comprehension
skill of the candidate in English. For these 8 questions, no Hindi translation
is provided.  Incidentally, only graduates are eligible to appear for the
Civil Service Examination.
The CSAT paper was introduced in 2011
and UPSC has already run this examination thrice under this new system.
Controversy and Objections
v  The Hindi belt students argue that
the translation into Hindi is of a higher standard.  According to them,
people with the knowledge of the English language have an advantage.  They
allege an unfair level-playing field between the rural and the urban students.
v  The non-Hindi speaking students argue
that the paper provides only the Hindi translation.  Non-Hindi speaking
students, who are not comfortable with English, are unable to depend on Hindi
as their Hindi-speaking counterparts could.  They complain that the
Hindi-speaking candidates have undue advantage of the Hindi translation.
They in
turn, allege that there is no level-playing field between the Hindi-speaking
and non Hindi-speaking candidates and that this is discrimination. They demand
translation in all the 22 approved Regional Languages.
This problem had cropped up on an
earlier occasion.  The previous Government (UPA) had then set up a 3-member
committee to examine the issue.  It may be noted that UPSC is an
independent body and is not under the control or aegis of the Central
Government.  The Union Minister has announced that he would request UPSC
to postpone the exam. Technically, this appears improbable to happen.
Perceptions of Different People
Priya, an IAS aspirant, says that the
new system does test the aptitude of the candidates, instead of the ‘mugging up’
(learning by rote) practice.  As a South Indian candidate, she feels it is
biased towards the Hindi-speaking candidates and she questions why Hindi
translation should be given for an English paper.  She questions why an
IAS-aspirant, who cannot understand even a Tenth Standard level of English,
should aspire to join the Civil Service.
Shankar, who runs a well-known
academy of coaching for IAS, says the urban candidates and IIT/IIM
graduates find the CSAT examination paper far easier than the others.  He
also feels that the current format of the question paper is advantageous for
the Hindi-speaking students besides the science and engineering graduates.

R. Nataraj, former Director General
of Police and former Chairman of the Tamil Nadu Public Service Commission,
  says the IAS aspirants need to have an aptitude for problem-solving
and decision-making, and a basic knowledge of the English language.  He
says the selection process cannot be conducted according to the
candidates’ terms, but has to be designed to suit the changing requirements of
the employment sector.  He makes a clear distinction between election and
selection.  While the politicians who are elected can be removed after
their term, the selected officials cannot be removed during their service.
Hence, he feels the selection has to be carried out carefully, so that most
suitable and meritorious candidates get selected through a selection process
which offers a level playing field to the aspirants.
With the impending elections in the
Hindi belt and other states, there would be more political pressure on UPSC to
dilute the quality of the selection process for the top civil service posts.
Few will have the courage to stand by the demand for upholding high standards
of the candidates, to equip them to meet the global standard. They fear being
accused of being ‘anti poor’ and ‘anti rural’.
The Only Solution – Let the
Candidate Prepare His Own Question Paper and Write the Examination!
(With tongue in cheek) The only solution
to the problem is to permit the candidates to set their own question
papers on subjects they are comfortable with, in their preferred language, and
write the answers to those self-selected questions in the examination hall.
This way, UPSC would not have to
worry about setting the question paper and can save on printing costs.
 Depending on the other parameters, additional marks also can be given to
satisfy all the stakeholders.

By K. Srinivasan


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Author: Stephen

Stephen is an internationally acclaimed business news journalist with 20 years of experience in the industry. Having worked for some of the most prestigious newspapers, magazines and news organizations, Stephen has become a respected leader in international business news. His writing has been featured in publications such as The Wall Street Journal, The Financial Times, The New York Times, and Bloomberg. Stephen has also appeared as a commentator on several radio and television programs, including CNN, CNBC, and Bloomberg TV. He is a sought after public speaker, appearing regularly at conferences and industry events to discuss the latest business news. With his wealth of experience, Stephen is an invaluable resource for anyone looking to stay up to date on the latest international business news.

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