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CSS no more attractive for educated youth

Quality youngsters are not appearing in the annual Central Superior Services (CSS) examinations for different reasons, keeping the pass percentage low over the years.

In the just announced CSS results for the last examination held in early 2016, only 2.06 percent candidates finally qualified for appointment in grade 17 after the written test and viva voce.

A total of 9,613 candidates had appeared in the written examination with 202 of them having passed it. As many as 199 contenders were finally qualified after the interview. However, a total of 193 were recommended for appointment.

In the preceding year of 2015, the pass percentage, 3.02 %, was much better than this year. A total of 12,176 candidates had appeared in the written test. Of them, 379 contestants passed while 368 of them finally qualified after the viva voce. However, as many as 238 lucky ones were recommended for appointment.

The year 2014 was worst in terms of the pass percentage, which was put at 1.77 %. A total of 26,640 candidates had applied while only 13,170 contenders dared to appear in the written examination that 439 of them passed, making the written examination qualified to the appeared ratio to 3.3 %. As many as 377 candidates finally qualified and thus the qualified to appeared ratio came to 2.86 %. Some 315 vacancies had been advertised. A total of 233 candidates were ultimately allocated to different departments.

Some blame declining pass percentage of CSS candidates on lack of attraction for the educated youth in the civil service, massive course alteration and the change in subject grouping which became effective from the 2016 examination.

A large number of private academies, where the aspirants study, were also clueless about what kind of the questions would be asked because of the course change. The Federal Public Service Commission (FPSC) hardly guided the candidates in this connection. Those appearing in this test faced the new experiment contrary to the past when they had some idea about the pattern of papers. The same year, the introduction of change in subject grouping also negatively impacted the contenders.

It is stated that quality youngsters who made CSS superior, are no more appearing in the examination and it has now become a competition mostly among those who are in bottom cohort of class.

“Another factor is that qualified top notch civil servants are quitting the service. So why would good youngsters be motivated to come forward?” a senior bureaucrat asked when his comments were sought on the low pass percentage.

He said that the 1990 CSS batch had 126 officers selected with 23 toppers have been allocated the District Management Group (DMG). Almost half of them left the service mostly during Pervez Musharraf’s martial law.

They are doing great in World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Lahore University of Management Sciences, internationaldevelopment consulting and even private sector, he pointed out.

The downward trend started after Pervez Musharraf in 2000 and his now forgotten devolution plan. It has been stated that when the lynchpin of administrative structure of Pakistan the office of Deputy Commissioner (DC) and Assistant Commissioner (AC), was made “exalted clerks” and subservient to half-literate Nazim, the key decision making at federal and provincial level shifted elsewhere, first through martial law monitoring and transition teams and then through core committees.

Thus the resulting collapse of civil and administrative structures is less because of political interference and more due to systemic destruction of civil services through blatant intervention by unelected adventurous men on horseback, the official said.

He said the civil service and politicians are global part of a dynamic system, and Constitution and law provide them duties and roles. They are supposed to maintain a balance, and if certain red lines are crossed, the red light flashes on the ballot box. All this resulted in young educated, fired by idealism, not considering civil service as their first port of call.

Another bureaucrat expressed the view that the standards have not gone down so much, but the top cohort of every class is much sharp, knowledgeable and enterprising than top cohort of the same class 30 years ago. The only difference is that this present lot is not interested in civil service, which practically has no role in decision-making and rule of law.

Lack of living wage is also a factor behind declining interest of the talented educated youth in the civil service, but it is a secondary reason because most civil servants know that the government doesn’t pay a living wage, but gives good housing and other comforts like health and education in better public sector schools. However, the wages have become important as the quality in all these sectors — housing, health education — is also offered by private sector.

A young DC or DCO (district coordination officer) gets just Rs70,000 while a provincial secretary Rs100,000. On the other hand government salaries in lower rungs are not bad compared to private sector.

The official said that the civil service is a key to developing future generations through mentoring and role models, who are already leaving. Therefore, why should bright young graduates aspire for a dying institution?

While there has been massive decline in several spheres, the civil service is still most merit-based avenue of social mobility in Pakistan. Young bright educated middle and even lower middle class people through dint of hard work excel and reach highest level of decision-making and official hierarchy. The main motivation is to have a reasonable standard of life, to contribute to national decision-making, and lead the development of a rule-based society.

Butt, Tariq. CSS no more attractive for educated youth. The News, May 15, 2017.

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