Saturday, June 19, 2010

CSAT - Civil services test in for a revamp

TIME FOR CHANGE:The proposed pattern will comprise questions which would test the problem solving, analytical, logical reasoning and decision-making skills of the aspirants. Photo: Rajeev Bhatt
Civil Services Aptitude Test is being mooted at the preliminary level from 2011 and the UPSC is expected to push for changes in the Main examination too.
Those aspiring to be civil servants must have not only the required skills and knowledge, but also the right values which would include integrity, commitment to public service and above all, commitment to the ideals and philosophy embodied in the Constitution.
So a number of committees and commissions were setup to make recommendations on various aspects of recruitment. The first committee was the Macaulay committee of 1854. This committee established the principle of ‘transferability of academic talent to administration.' The Macaulay system continued till three decades after Independence.
In 1976, the Kothari committee recommended a sequential system of examination based on the dictum that “the average quality would get richer as the stream proceeds from one ‘stage to the next'. Accordingly the examination was designed as a sequential three stage process - an objective type Preliminary examination comprising one Optional and General Studies, a Main examination which would comprise 9 written papers and finally a Personality Test.
In 1989, Satish Chandra Committee was appointed to suggest reforms and it recommended minor changes to Kothari model. Accordingly, an ‘Essay' paper was introduced and the marks for the Interview were enhanced. Presently, the Civil Services Examination is conducted on an annual basis on this pattern.
The new millennium demanded excellence at every level of governance which required almost total re-shaping, re-structuring of the economic as well as the administrative apparatus of the government. Responding to this need, the Y.K. Alagh Committee, in 2001, recommended significant changes.
At the Preliminary level, it suggested that the ‘optional' subject should be continued but the General Studies paper should be recast to that of a Civil Services Aptitude Test comprising questions on basic awareness', ‘problem solving and analytical abilities' ( situation from the civil services arena to be taken to test reasoning and understanding of problems ) and ‘data analysis ability'.
In order to establish a level playing field it recommended that the optionals at the Main examination be replaced by four compulsory papers - Sustainable Development and Social justice, Science and Technology in Society, Democratic governance, Public Systems and Human Rights. The Second Administrative Reforms (Veerappa Moily) Commission in its report in 2008 upheld the recommendations of the Alagh Committee and made a few more significant suggestions.
The first step in this direction is its proposal to introduce a Civil Services Aptitude Test at the Preliminary level from the year 2011.
The Preliminary examination is expected to be re-modelled in either of the following formats:
Format-I : In this format, following the Alagh committee recommendations the Preliminary examination may comprise the following two objective type papers - the Optional Subject (300 marks) and Civil Services Aptitude Test (200 marks).
Format-II : In this format, following the recommendations of ‘P.S. Bhatnagar' the Preliminary examination may comprise the following two objective type papers - Civil Services Aptitude Test (300 marks) and General Studies (300 marks).
The Union Public Service Commission may choose any of the above formats and a notification may be expected by May-June this year. Whatever the format, the Civil Services Aptitude Test appears to be on the anvil.
Likely pattern of a Civil Services Aptitude Test
It would comprise questions which would test the ‘problem solving', ‘analytical', ‘logical reasoning' and ‘decision-making skills' of the aspirant. To ensure that these questions are relevant they would necessarily be from the arena of civil services with an underlying essence of Public Administration in practice.
The UPSC is expected to push for changes at the level of the Main examination too. It is seriously examining the proposal of including compulsory papers exclusively from the domain of humanities based on the French Model of examination. The compulsory papers that are expected to be introduced are : ? Sustainable Development and Social Justice; ?Democratic Governance, Public Systems and Human Rights; ? Indian Constitution with an emphasis on Indian Legal System including Administrative Law; ? Economic Theory and Indian Economic System; ?Administrative Theories and Organisational Behaviour and ? Indian Administrative System. However, these changes are not expected in the near future.
Changes
The news of any change is an unnerving moment for any long term serious aspirant. However, if one is mentally prepared, the transition becomes easier. Given below are a few broad guidelines to help the prospective aspirant to prepare for the examination :
1. First and foremost, there is only a proposal for a change in ‘principle'. The change is to be debated and accepted. The UPSC has to formally declare the new pattern. Till then, all aspirants should continue with the old pattern.
2. As the questions would be from the arena of the civil services, all aspirants irrespective of their background should try to understand the philosophy behind the Constitution, its ideals, its principles and its focus on development. Having understood the constitutional framework they should comprehend the position of the civil services in the relevant context.
3. Having acquired basic knowledge within the given parameters, the next step would be to understand the logic behind every provision. Till now, what was tested was the ‘what', now what would be tested will be the ‘why'.
4. The mode of preparation should change from the ‘descriptive' mode to the ‘explanatory' mode.
Having established a base for developing reasoning and problem solving skills, the prospective aspirant can ‘hone' them at the appropriate juncture.The writer is Director, Brain Tree.

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