The Central Superior Service (CSS) exams can either be categorised as a reward for a continuous and tenacious effort by those who succeed or a haunting failure for those who fall prey to the inconsistencies present in the system that delivers the final result. Each season, thousands of individuals gear up to embark on the strenuous experience of preparing for the exam to bargain for a place in the prestigious bureaucracy. The 2019 session has been no different, with only 2.56% of the candidates clearing the written phase. Interestingly, if compared, this rate is lower than the admission rate of the Harvard University which stood at 5.9% as of 2018. 

The system is inherited from colonial times and was registered under the Government of India Act of 1935 and includes occupational groups that serve 12 dimensions.

However, the long process is favorable to only a handful of individuals who fight against unbelievable odds to earn the tag of a government officer. A diagnosis reveals possible shortcomings associated with the quality of candidates applying, a lack of transparency over the evaluation of exams and the lengthy procedure awaiting the final result.

The average ability of candidates is a direct repercussion of the educational system of the country which has struggled against a stumbling democracy, changing leaders and a failure to enforce the Section 25(A) that guarantees a right to free education under the law. It must also be noted that graduates from elite universities do not consider the examination as the most prized career option owing to a lot of fields opening up in the Pakistani market. The minimal quota of seats in the civil service adds to the sorrows of the candidates who hesitate to step aboard a ship that has a higher chance of sinking.

Looking at the second dimension; the federal public service commission marks thousands of people under the pretext of passing ‘deserving’ candidates when in fact, the examination procedure is not openly accessible to the public. The marking criteria may try to follow a meritocratic approach but there is no mechanism to identify and review mistakes in the exams for future corrections. However, the relevant question that stands is what kind of candidates fall into the ideal criteria; should they be critical thinkers or passive machines who can reproduce content on paper as expected?

It should be simultaneously acknowledged that once candidates decide to adopt the civil service as their preferred choice of career, the time span that lags between the dream and the final allocation takes on a couple of years. This period not only requires consistent effort and struggles to pass the exams but a sacrifice of employment opportunities in alternative sectors with no chance of up gradation of skills. The result for the majority of aspirants turns out to be a helpless situation whereby they are left with failure in not only the CSS system but generally in their professional circumstances.

The system, therefore, must focus on a set of reforms that can deplete the uncertainties associated with it to ensure better selection, recruitment and equal opportunity as a whole. Firstly, the education sector must be scrutinized to produce better qualified candidates who can compete effectively. Secondly, the marking scheme must be made available to ensure transparency so future aspirants can ameliorate their efforts. Lastly, the whole process must be subject to a shorter time span to reduce impact for those who are not able to break through.

Reforms have been on the cards since a lot of years, yet they focus more on issues inside the service rather than the ones associated with its entry. However, the pivot needs to shift for better outcomes.