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Reforming the syllabus of the civil services

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Reform must begin with recruitment

A Civil Service is a permanent part of the executive in a sovereign state. It is the permanent professional branch of a state’s administration, excluding military and judicial branches and elected politicians. Civil servants or administrators are the implementers of the policies of a government. Hence, the civil service is the implementing machine of a government. Consequently, specialized and skilled civil services are vital to the cause of good governance and service delivery.

Recruitment of competent, enterprising and professional civil servants is central to the functional recruitment apparatus. Quality of recruitment is directly proportionate to the standards of the recruitment process. Consequently, It is essential to dissect the prerequisite demands of civil services before recruiting civil servants.

The primary reason behind the low quality of civil servants is the existing general mode of examination. Civil service is a specialized faculty and it is a prerequisite to revamp the civil service examinations according to civil service obligations involving written examination, psychological analysis and interview

Civil services require administrative, executive and managerial skills; therefore, the mode of examination should necessarily translate these critical skills. Then, civil servants are administrators, duly required to implement the governmental policies according to administrative structures, hence require an apposite mode of recruitment.

To begin with, Pakistan is a coded society. Coded law, either substantive or procedural, is applied to the administrative regimes of the governance system. It is imperative for a civil servant to develop professional skills on coded law such as articulating legislation and law, applying rules and policy and implementing the coded law regimes across administrative structures. In the backdrop of this discerning administrative capacity,  the existing mode of recruitment is general, not specialized.  The syllabus is directly in conflict with the demands of the civil service. It is inapt to recruit civil servants on the competency of essay, general knowledge and writing skills. How can English grammarians be recruited as compact civil servants?

Civil services examinations are in a denial mode to the ever-changing dimensions of the civil services. How can an essayist, and that too in the English language, make a better civil servant? How can a crammer of facts make a better civil servant? How can narrative expression be more vital for a civil servant when he is required to implement law and governance modules? How can a civil servant be recruited without knowledge of coded law and administrative skills?

The existing recruitment mechanism does not reflect the dexterous capacity of the civil service. Even the much-hyped central superior service (CSS) or Provincial Management Service (PMS) examinations do not relate to the exigencies of civil services. Consequently, the recruited civil servants find it a daunting task to grasp the administrative acquaintance of governance and administration.

Competitive civil service examinations require immediate revamping and restructuring of the syllabus. There is a dire need to assimilate the civil service coded attributes into the syllabus and mode of recruitment processes. Redundant compulsory and optional subjects should be replaced with focused and specialized subjects of governance and service delivery. Arguably, following compulsory subject modules may be incorporated into the syllabus of competitive examinations in place of existing generalist subjects. Analytical analysis of the constitution of Pakistan may be introduced as a primary compulsory subject for competitive examinations. Subjects relating to legislation, law and policy making, alongside deriving delegated legislation, may be incorporated in the syllabus. Then, subjects like those of administrative law, financial law, implementation law, contract law, civil and criminal law, administrative procedural law are also instrumental for the syllabus. Competitive examination must incorporate the coded law of the governance system. A civil servant shall remain incompetent without skills in application of coded law.

Besides, public financial management, project management and planning management are required to be incorporated as fundamental subjects of competitive examination. A dynamic civil servant always develops the innovative skills for administrative structures essential for good governance and service delivery. Public administration, Human Resource Management, infotech management may be a compulsory part of the syllabus of competitive examinations. Subjects like those of local government, devolution, federalism and political management should be incorporated in the syllabus of competitive examinations. Incorporation of these civil service subjects shall make the examinations focused.

Unfortunately, existing competitive examinations are euphemistic expressions of the English language.  They represent class patronage of fashionable English-speaking cult. It is structural discrimination that Urdu is not allowed as a medium of examination. Candidates should be allowed to appear both in English and Urdu. Let English paraphrasers not dictate the terms of the competitive examinations!

Civil services are directly linked to the people and the best mode of communication is either local languages or Urdu. Civil service is all about communicating with people to settle their issues in the domain of implementation. Practice of English is only limited to summaries, presentations or official communication, hence, the usage is limited to the administrative demands of civil services in Pakistan.

Civil services epitomize stronger conduct, attitude and posture. Comprehensive psychological analysis of the civil servants is critical to the recruitment process. The current mode of crossing emotional intelligence of the candidates is neither instinctive nor substantive. The psychological analysis of the candidates have been surreptitious because candidates securing better written marks are winning the competitive processes.  Administrative and emotional inclinations are not translated for the choice of relevant civil services. Psychosocial analysis should lead to the choice of allocating various service groups. Is it not bizarre that only securing more marks results in allocation of a group of choice despite having different emotional or administrative inclinations?

Civil service is less about writing skills and more about communicating skills. Barely, communication skills are translated into the recruitment process. A casual sitting of half an hour shall not demonstrate the communicational skills of a candidate. An efficient recruitment entails demonstrative interviews rather than descriptive or narrative interviews. A civil servant, accomplished in communication, is an effective civil servant. Henceforth, there is a dire need to reconcile the civil service necessities with that of recruitment processes and mode of examinations.

The primary reason behind the low quality of civil servants is the existing general mode of examination. Civil service is a specialized faculty and it is a prerequisite to revamp the civil service examinations according to civil service obligations involving written examination, psychological analysis and interview.

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