Language trouble!

Civil Services Exams
Last Updated 20 March 2013, 14:20 IST

Recently proposed changes in the pattern of civil services exams haven’t been received with much appreciation by either aspirants or experts. Political parties and their students’ wings also held protests, saying that the proposed changes will affect the candidates from rural areas and vernacular speaking students. 

According the new rules, proposed by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), aspirants will not be allowed to take examination in regional language if one does not have an Hons degree in it. Besides, at least 25 aspirants should be writing the exam in a regional language, else no candidate will be allowed to take the paper in that particular medium. Also, the English paper marks will be counted for ranking the aspirants unlike earlier when it was only a qualifying paper for the mains. 

Metrolife talks to experts and students about the changes and their implications. Abhishek Gupta, one of the directors of Rau’s IAS Study Circle, says the scope of aspirant, who wants to write an exam in local language besides Hindi or English, is becoming limited. 

“The cap of 25 students for writing in local language and a must have Hons degree in the same language are evoking more negative reactions. Earlier, other than Hindi and English, a candidate could write in any of the 22 languages scheduled in the Constitution. This is something which seems unjust for thousands of students who appear for civic services exams from even remotest parts of the country,” says Abhishek.

However he feels that, strategically, making marks of English count for the ranking is a positive step and would benefit those who are weak in the language. “Now the rule is that one has to score at least 40 per cent marks in English. Only then the candidate would qualify for the mains and his other paper would be evaluated. But if the new change is adopted, even if a student scores less than 40 per cent, he or she can be victorious by scoring well in other subjects,” he explains.

However, many feel that the proposed changes would help students with urban background, those pass outs of convent schools  and those with strong command over English. The emphasis has been given on English. 

Pankaj Kumar, who has been running Jain’s IAS Study Circle for years, says, “The civil services exams is a test of knowledge. A person with a rural background and fluency in a local language can also be an excellent administrator. Usually, after the hard work of four-five years, these people are able to achieve the level required in English to reach the preliminary stage. So, if implemented, the new changes would affect this lot the most.”

Vipul Bhartiya, a civil services aspirant, says, “Those with poor English suffer the most. In fact, those who have studied in English medium are not very good at writing it. In such a case, many prefer their regional language. It will be a loss for them.”

Even as the decision to bring in these changes has been put on hold, some of the new rules have been welcomed by everyone. These include practical aspects in the syllabus of General Studies (GS), increasing its weightage from 25 to 65 per cent and reduction of optional papers from two to one. 

“I received a few agitated emails against the changes but many of them have welcomed them. The problem area is change with respect to the language for writing the exam. The civil servants work in different areas and different parts of the country, even the world. English is a global language. They need to have some degree of proficiency in it,” says Abhishek.

“I support the change with respect to proficiency in any one language. Because many aspirants – including some successful ones, are not able to communicate even in one language properly,” adds Pankaj. 

(Published 20 March 2013, 14:20 IST)

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