WHAT EXACTLY IS THE Civil Services Exams REFORM?
R. C. SINHA
The Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had last month approved the revamp of the preliminary exam on lines suggested by the Union Public Service Commission. The UPSC is further expected to push for changes in the Civil Service (Mains) Examination. But this will be only after examining the response to changes in the preliminary exam.
The UPSC had told the government two years ago there was a need to test not just the knowledge of aspirants in particular subjects but their aptitude for "a demanding life in the civil services". It had also recommended bringing down the number of attempts a candidate could take. But Dr. Singh has kept this aspect on hold.
Now the government has decided to replace the Civil Services (Preliminary) Examination with the Civil Service Aptitude Test (CSAT), which will test candidates on their aptitude and analytical abilities rather than their ability to memorise.
“The CSAT is expected to come into effect from 2011,” Minister of State in the Ministry of Personnel, Prithviraj Chavan, told Lok Sabha on Wednesday 10 March – 2010.Confirming the change for the first stage of CSE, he told the Lok Sabha that the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has approved the proposal for introduction of CSAT in place of the existing CS (Preliminary) Examination.
In his written reply, he said: "CSAT is expected to come into effect from CSE, 2011." The proposal to this effect was sent to the PMO last year by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) which conducts CSE every year to select candidates for elite all-India services, including IAS, IPS, IFS, IRS and others Group 'A' and Group 'B' central jobs.
As of now, the change will be effective only for the first stage of the Civil Services Examination (CSE) from 2011 onwards. The second and third stages — CS (Main) Examination and interview respectively — may remain the same till a committee of experts goes into various aspects of the entire system and submits its report.
Officials familiar with the proposal which has got the PM's nod explained that the changes were suggested by various committees, including the second Administrative Reforms Commission, in their reports submitted over the years. Most of the panels had advocated laying greater emphasis on the "aptitude" of candidates than their knowledge of a subject, arguing that specialists or experts in any particular subject may not necessarily be good civil servants.
A top government official said UPSC chairman Professor D.P. Agrawal has constituted a high-powered committee - under former University Grants Commission vice-chairman Professor S.K. Khanna - to work out the details of the two papers. “The committee has been given time till April-end. Then the UPSC will discuss its recommendations with the government and finalise the content of the paper,” the official said.
Referring to introduction of CSAT, an official said: "The new system will also provide a level-playing field and equity, since all candidates will have to attempt common papers unlike the current format which provides for only one common paper.
Accordingly, the candidates will have to appear in two objective-type papers having special emphasis on testing their "aptitude for civil services" as well as on "ethical and moral dimension of decision-making" under a Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT). Both these papers — “having equal weightage” — will be “common to all candidates.”
At present the prelims consist of two papers: the first is on general studies and common to all; candidates can then choose the second paper from a list of two dozen-odd subjects. But now it is the second paper that will undergo a major change.
- There shall be two objective type-papers carrying equal marks unlike present, in which General-Studies paper carries 150 marks and optional paper carries 300 marks. So now, it shall be like two papers carrying 150 marks each.
- Therefore, instead of one compulsory paper of General-Studies and one Optional paper, both the papers shall be compulsories.
- Therefore, both the papers will be common to all candidates and the UPSC gets rid of current scaling system which was challenged on one ground or other. The matter has been pending in Supreme Court for long. So now even the court also need not deliver her verdict on the matter. The problem of scaling is over and now no candidate will take any undue advantage over others because of particular optional of his or her choice.
- The compulsory paper other than General-Studies, will test “aptitude for civil services”. It means testing the ability of decision making without compromising with moral and ethical values. Therefore it is ability of value based decision making instead of taking just facts based decision. It will reflect the candidates ability to analyse than ability to memorise.
More clearly, it will be the test to sideline bookish candidates. The decision making ability or ability to analyse may be mostly judged from the topics of Public Administration. The moral and ethical aspects, of decision making may be judged from psychological parts like Motivation, Conflict-management, Administrative behaviour, Human behaviour, Psychology of individual as well as Social-psychology to understand crowd behaviour, Management by objectives and so on.
Altogether, the second objective paper may clubbed form of Pulic Administration, Psychology, Sociology, different economic situation, geographical conditions and technologies needed in the areas of security, intelligence, law and order, Revenue in regulating and controlling administration. It is to ensure result oriented civil servants rather than efforts oriented. The profile of this paper, as hinted by the UPSC, will be a very good blend of Public Administration, Psychology, Sociology, Information and Communication Technology, Economy, International deals and Diplomacy.
Finally, there shall not be any change in the Main Examination including Interview in 2011, as clarified by the minister concerned, on the floor of Lok-Sabha. The change in Main Examination will be made after examining the response to changes in the Preliminary Examination. This is, really, in accordance to “demanding life in presented civil services”.
Mr. R. C. Sinha is Founder and Chief Consultant of New Delhi IAS (Institute for IAS Preparations).
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