Friday, Nov 28, 2014

Explained: What is the UPSC controversy

Written by Raghvendra Rao | New Delhi | Posted: July 16, 2014 12:35 am | Updated: July 16, 2014 9:23 am

Following protests by civil services aspirants who have been demanding the scrapping of Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) calling it discriminatory against Humanities students and those with Hindi background, the Centre Tuesday asked the UPSC to postpone the preliminary examination slated for August 24.

What is the controversy?

* At the heart of the matter is the change of pattern the UPSC introduced in the Civil Services Preliminary Exam starting 2011. Till 2010, the exam used to have two papers — one on general studies and one on an optional subject where aspirants could choose one of 23 listed subjects. This was changed from 2011 onwards, when the UPSC decided to replace the optional subject paper with a paper that tests the aspirants’ aptitude. The syllabus for this paper, protesting aspirants allege, is heavily tilted in favour of those from the Science or, more specifically, Engineering background and is discriminatory against students from Humanities, particularly those who have studied in Hindi-medium.

What is the syllabus for this second paper?
* The second paper in the preliminary exam comprises comprehension, interpersonal skills including communication skills, logical reasoning and analytical ability, decision making and problem solving, general mental ability, basic numeracy (numbers and their relations, orders of magnitude, etc — Class X level), data interpretation (charts, graphs, tables, data sufficiency, etc — Class X level) and English language comprehension skills (Class X level).

Why are the protesters calling this syllabus discriminatory?

* They feel it favours Science and \Engineering students. Questions related to mathematics, they feel, put students from Humanities at a disadvantage. They have also alleged that English language comprehension skills, which the second paper tests, is discriminatory against students from a Hindi-medium background. The protesters claim that since the changes were introduced in 2011, the number of Humanities students clearing the preliminary exam has fallen drastically, while the number of those with Science/Engineering background has shot up.

How is the government addressing the problem?

* The matter has been raised by several MPs in the ongoing Parliament session. On Tuesday, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said the government was urging the UPSC and the committee constituted to look into the matter to submit its report at the earliest. Singh also said UPSC should consider postponing the date of the exam. “We would write to the UPSC and the committee that has been constituted to submit this report to expedite the process, address their concerns judiciously and sympathetically and not let them (the aspirants) go with a feeling that they have been wronged on account of any bias towards any language… There should be no injustice regarding the language and the government does not support this,” the minister said.

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