CSAT Pattern change – Unwarranted
Changing CSAT format unwarranted
The clamour against the Civil Service Aptitude Test conducted by the Union Public Service Commission has grown louder this year compared to last year. The resentment of young men and women has boiled over to the streets making police to use force in some cases to rein in the agitators. To see candidates, some of whom would rule the country one day, beaten up by the police is disturbing.
What does CSAT contain that upsets some of the aspirants so much? This portion of the Civil Service examination tests a range of abilities and skills that are essential for an officer who would get to administer the country soon. The questions include comprehension, interpersonal-communication, logical reasoning, decision-making and problem-solving. Apart from these, some of the questions assess high school level English language skills.
If the questions relate to such basic level of skills, how can there be objection against the test? CSAT is a vital screening test that filters out candidates with low IQ and low preparation. The test based on high school level knowledge acts as a base bench mark for all aspirants from across the country. To say that the test favours one section of candidates over another is absurd. A section of the agitators erroneously claim that those who did their schooling in Hindi would be disadvantaged compared to those who studied in English medium. This argument does not stand scrutiny because these candidates, who allege discrimination, could exercise their option to write their examination in Hindi.
It is necessary to mention one provision regarding writing answers in regional languages. A candidate wanting to write the main examination in his mother tongue Marathi must have done the first degree in Marathi with one paper in the same language. If the candidate does not satisfy this condition, they can’t be permitted to use their mother tongue to write the main examination. Such restriction is, however, not applicable to those wishing to write their main examination in Hindi.
Another argument is that CSAT favours students from science, management and engineering backgrounds. The protestors maintain that candidates from the humanities suffer because, they claim, there is undue stress on logical reasoning skills. This argument falls flat on closer scrutiny.
The basis of the protest cited above is deeply flawed as dilution of standard of any type will undermine the premier service cadre of the government. Mediocrity can’t be allowed to creep in to placate protesters who are possibly to hide some of their deficiencies. They would be well-advised to work harder to make up their shortfalls through intensive studies. Street demonstrations are never the answer to address inadequacies in preparation.
There is no denying the fact that an administrator must be able to use logical reasoning skills efficiently in course of his day-to-day duties. A system of examination that does not asses this skill is unsuitable for modern-day India.
The preliminary examination for 2014 is scheduled for August 24. Scrapping the test at this stage will be a grave injustice to a large majority of aspirants who have prepared for the test with all sincerity. Street demonstrations must not lead to cancellation of the examination and redrawing of the syllabus. That would be disruptive and demoralizing.
However, the complaints relating to erroneous translation of questions from English to Hindi appear to be genuine. It would not take great effort to address this problem. The Arvind Verma Committee has already given its view about the unsoundness of the agitators’ demands. The UPSC and the government should stand firm now and go ahead with the tests as scheduled. Pandering to the demands of the protesters would be a populist step that could cause more problems than it solves.