How Our Education System Fails CSS Aspirants
The Central Superior Service (CSS) Exam carries a forbidding reputation for being the most difficult exam in Pakistan. This is largely a myth propagated by expensive private tuition ‘academies’ to dupe aspiring students into paying extortionate fees.
Students face many challenges in taking competitive exams such as PMS and CSS. But these have more to do with structural failures of our education system rather than the difficulty of the exam itself: say class-based inequalities in terms of access to quality education and the language barrier (as the exams are conducted in English).
Tutoring ‘academies’ operating in various cities of Pakistan rake in a lot of money by intimidating students into believing that a CSS exam is impossible to clear without the tuition and training offered by academies that charge extortionate fees without guaranteeing success or quality of knowledge.
Different academies often claim successful candidates as their own in order to artificially inflate their reputations. Sometimes successful candidates are offered money in exchange for endorsements.
Furthermore, these academies glorify the lives of civil service personnel, making their lifestyles appear idyllic and coveted. By doing so, academies turn the pressure on students, making them feel like the good life rides on their performance in this one exam. Needless to say, this immense pressure has a devastating psychological effect on aspiring students, often deterring qualified and able students from attempting the exam in the first place.
Due to this structured academic pressure, most students become extremely overwhelmed, unable to navigate the race course and academies exploit that vulnerability. I would like to take this opportunity to relieve such students of their anxieties and recommend that they stay away from the rabble about CSS exams. Much misinformation and misunderstanding surrounds the CSS exam, making it seem like a herculean task requiring extraordinary skills and talents. Let me reassure you, you can do this on your own.
Here are some of the fabrications regarding CSS that have been doing rounds recently:
1.“The monopoly of medical doctors.”
In Pakistan, doctors are perceived to have superior academic skills which supposedly allow them to ‘cram’ more knowledge than others g. If cramming had been the standard, we would have seen doctors dominating the exams but this isn’t so.
2. “It’s impossible to pass the CSS exam on the first try”
You’ll be told that no one makes it one their first try but this is simply not true. Many people pass the exam on their first attempt, without any help from the academies.
3. “It can only be endeavoured by the highly educated”
Again, a misrepresentation. . Many graduates with modest academic records have passed it.
4. “You need to be expert of English”
Most of the students don’t take the CSS exam because they think it requires an extraordinary grip on the English language. This is a hurdle that is difficult to jump over sometimes, but acquiring linguistic skills is not an impossible task, people all over the world learn and master new languages. Regrettably, our society holds English synonymous with intellectual capacity. This is not true. Language is an instrument of expression, not a scale with which to measure intelligence.
Most Pakistani students are lucky that they have some exposure to the English language due to the internet, access to Western TV shows, the colonial legacy of our education system and so on. As long as you find the right teacher and work hard, a language is not necessarily the barrier people make it out to be.
To ace this prestigious exam one requires determination and hard work, for sure. However, it does not require you to empty your wallet and despair. You need not pay any heed to the myths surrounding these exams – just follow your curiosity and try to get a good grip on the subjects you’ll be quizzed on. And best of luck!