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RTI: Expert Committee formed to revise Eligibility, Scheme & Pattern for CSE

RTI Reply by UPSC on Pattern Change

In a reply to an RTI filed by ForumIAS Members, UPSC has clarified on September 21 the below things:-

1). UPSC has resolved to constitute an expert committee to look into the eligibility, syllabus, scheme and pattern of UPSC examination.

2). The members of the committee shall be :-

a). Sri B.S. Baswan
b). Shri B N Navalawala
c). Dr. Hari Pratap Gautam
d). D. Anil Sahasrabudhe
e). Prof. Peter Ronal deSouza
f). Prof. B Mahadevan
g). Shri M.P. Tangirala, Additional Secy ( Examination ) , UPSC

The Committee’s mandate & Analysis: [What it means to you]

Point 1: Effectiveness of the pattern – The committee will evaluate the effectiveness of the existing scheme of examination, after reviewing recommendations of previous committees, in selecting suitable candidates keeping in mind factors like:-

  • Need for inclusiveness in selection process, fair mix of candidates from different disciplines,
  • Skill -sets commensurate with the modern times which require an efficient & effective civil service
  • Trainability of the selected candidates

Key points here are,

  • Need for inclusiveness
  • fair mix of candidates

From the past few years, students from the engineering and medical streams have increasingly ruled the UPSC exam. Success rate of candidates from medical & engineering backgrounds has indeed been very high. Committee might recommend some changes to the pattern, to select a fair amount of candidates from each stream and eliminate this dominance of few specific streams.

Neither a veteran nor a fresher will be too much affected by any changes introduced under this point because pattern in any case will not be changed drastically. They might reduce the weightage of aptitude further.

Point 2: Examination of current pattern

  • Whether there is a need for prescribing different papers for selection to different services covered under this exam – Service specific papers might be introduced. Like Pub-ad for IAS & Law for the IPS aspirants. In such a case, a fresher and a veteran who has not read such subject previously will be affected as they would have to read the entire subject from the beginning. Those candidates who have read such subjects during their graduation or as a part of their optional preparation would have  considerable advantage over the others.
  • The number of papers in each stage – Number wont matter that much as the type of the papers. Optionals might be removed but until a decision is made one should keep preparing his optional to avoid any last minute debacles.
  • Mix of compulsory and optional subjects – A process where each candidate has to prepare a specific set of compulsory papers has been widely discussed. If implemented it would help create a proverbial level playing field for this exam. There has been rumors, suggesting that Pub-Ad might be included in this list of compulsory subjects. In my opinion, any subject introduced under this scheme will favour a certain number of candidates. Namely those who have studied it earlier. So both, freshers and veterans who haven’t will suffer a dis-advantage.
  • Their structure i.e. Objective or subjective – Any change introduced here wont affect candidates much as aspirants giving UPSC are accustomed to both the styles.
  • Duration of papers – The Mains exam has been deemed by few candidates as unfair in terms of duration of exam. So, any change introduced to increase the duration will be welcomed by both the veterans and freshers alike.
  • Broad areas to be covered in each paper – This point relates to overall syllabus. Any changes addition or reduction of the syllabus will have to be dealt equally by all the candidates.
  • Medium of the exam – According to data released by the UPSC, the number of non-English medium candidates appearing in the Civil Service exams in 2008 was (5,082), in 2009(4,839), in 2010 (4,156) and in 2011 (1,682), showing a trend of gradual decline.

The number of candidates who wrote in Hindi medium in 2008 was 5,082. This number fell to 1682 in 2011.  In Telugu language 117 candidates wrote the exam in 2008, this number fell to 29 in 2011.  In Tamil language 98 candidates wrote the exam in 2008, their number fell to 14 in 2011. In Kannada language 14 candidates wrote the exam in 2008, this number fell to 5 in 2011.

On the contrary the number of English-medium candidates has sharply increased during 2008- 2011 period. The percentage of English medium candidate in 2008 was (50.57%), in 2009 (54.50%) in 2010, (62.23%) and in 2011 (82.93%).

The final results also indicate the falling numbers of the Hindi and vernacular medium candidates. So, taking cognizance of the above facts, committee might recommend changes to create a level playing field for Hindi & vernacular medium candidates. Any positive changes introduced shall be welcomed by both the freshers and veterans of the Hindi/Vernacular medium.

  • Marking scheme, Weightage of marks & evaluation system – Any changes introduced here will equally affect both veterans and the freshers.
  • To make the exam pattern holistic & free of any inherent bias against any candidate from any stream subject, language or region – All the changes talked above, if implemented shall result in a bias free and impartial exam process.

Point 3: Shortening the duration of the exam – Aspirants have complained regarding the time consuming and lengthy exam process, again and again. Committee’s decision to shorten the time duration would bring much needed respite to the candidates, both fresher & veterans alike.

Any changes made to the reserve and waiting list mechanism shall benefit the candidates who have hopes of getting a seat but are left in limbo and confusion due to ambiguous rules.

Point 4: Suitable time-frame: This is the most important step in my opinion as an unclear time-frame only creates speculation and confusion. A pre-set time period to implement the revised pattern shall give rest to mindless speculations. It will help many aspirants to plan their preparations accordingly.

Point 5: Eligibility criteria: The most controversial and discussed topic is the eligibility criteria.

  • Minimum & Maximum age limits, Number of attempts– Age limits & number of attempts have been relaxed since 2014. The question bothering everyone & esp the veterans who have crossed 30 is whether or not this relaxation shall continue. The decision to lower the age limit by 4 years was of the UPA government. Current government has categorically stated that it does not intend to follow up on UPAs policy. In November 2014 the current govt refused to lower the age limits for the UPSC exam. Moreover, any changes in the age & attempts which affects prospects of thousand and lakhs of candidates of the voting age shall not be without any political repercussions.  We can only hope that such radical policy changes. If, at all are implemented, they should be phased , giving enough time to the veterans and freshers alike to align their preparations with the new policy. This age change eligibility should not be via the Prelims Notification and at least 1 year forewarning should be given to aspirants, if attempts at age reduction happen.

 

  • Review of eligibility criteria of already selected candidates who wish to re-appear for the exam – This point shall affect those who are resolute to better their ranks to get IAS. Except for IAS & IFS (Indian Foreign Service), one can re-appear for the civil services exam. Once selected for IAS or IFS, one is not entitled to write the exam again unless he quits the service first.

 

  • However, with large number of IPS and IRS people writing the exam, and migrating to IAS ( This year we had record number of IRS probationers qualifying for IAS ) , the departments – revenue and Police have created roadblocks, if not completely prohibited their existing cadre  in IRS and IPS  from writing the exam again.  In absence of a clear cut policy, such department level roadblocks are unfair to the person affected.  Such a clearly define policy is needed.

Point 6: Periodic updation of syllabus:

Committee will suggest a system to design & periodically update syllabus of each paper while considering following things,

  • Unitization of syllabus
  • proper coverage of content
  • Balance across subject papers

The above measures shall ensure,

  • The syllabus is comprehensive
  • Up-to-date
  • Suitable for a competitive evaluation of the candidates

 

Point 7: Review of logistical requirements & constraints: Half the number of candidates do not even appear for the preliminary exam. Keeping in mind the above fact the committee after reviewing the logistical requirements & constraints shall suggest relevant improvements.

Candidates who reside in rural areas and face difficulties in reaching the far away centers would welcome this step wholeheartedly as their precious time and energy is wasted during long journey to reach their examination centers.

With CAT and now IIT also computer based, will UPSC move to a computer based examination system?

Point 8: The committee can also examine,

  • Any other matter which it considers relevant to the process of selection, or
  • any other matter which may be referred to it by the government or the commission

Point 9: Assistance from professionals & institutions: The committee may take help from experts, institutions & academic professionals as it may consider necessary, in consultation with the commission.

Point 10: Timeline of report submission: The committee shall file its report within 6 months of its constitution.

Changes if any in the exam pattern, if recommended by the Committee, will hopefully, only take place after due deliberation – and not randomly like this year – by a last minute notification. In times of so many changes brought in UPSC – and in fact – in our times, we can only hope that aspirants should be made aware of changes at least one year ahead, much before the Prelims Notification – especially in the case of age reduction or attempt reduction.

Aspirants commit a minimum of 1.5 years in UPSC prep, and last minute changes disrupt the whole plan.

Also, any steps that UPSC may take in the direction of reducing the time taken for the entire exam cycle will be very relieving .

Lastly, kindly check the link below for latest update on this issue by the pib,

http://pib.nic.in/newsite/PrintRelease.aspx?relid=128221

Snapshots of the RTI reply,

Page 1 Page 2 Page 3

Should not UPSC forewarn Students at least 1 year in advance in case of any decision on eligibility, attempts and age, or should it be done via the Prelims Notification – barely 2 months before the exam? What do you think?

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