New Delhi is the hub of civil services coaching institutes which aim at the holistic development of the candidates.
THE democratisation of the Indian polity and the increasing representation of the marginalised population brought about by the rise of regional parties in the past three decades are best reflected in the Indian bureaucracy. What used to be a typically elite, privately schooled and English-speaking bureaucratic force in the 1970s and 1980s is now a progressive mix of urban, semi-urban and rural people. The Indian civil service has come a long way if we take into account its inclusive representation of all sections of the population. The direct impact of this change in governance is evident in the selection process of civil servants, and more so in the pattern of the Civil Services Examinations (CSE) conducted by the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC).
With the urban youth opting for lucrative private jobs in the era of economic globalisation, the civil services started attracting more and more graduates from rural and semi-urban areas. As a result, in the past decade a larger number of Hindi-speaking students and young people who had their education in other regional languages began to appear in the civil services. Since the UPSC looks for well-groomed young people, coaching institutes that train and groom candidates for the civil services have begun to flourish. New Delhi has become the biggest hub of civil services coaching institutes. These institutes not only teach the respective optional subjects and General Studies required for the examinations but also have personality development programmes in their coaching modules.
Our aim has not only been to help students qualify for the IAS [Indian Administrative Service] but to make them better human beings, honest, sincere and hard-working public servants devoted to the general good of the people. Thus, our effort is aimed at all-around development of the students' personality and not at mere transfer of information on the subjects taught, V.P. Gupta, director of Rau's IAS Study Circle, which is the oldest coaching institute in Delhi, told Frontline some years ago.
Similarly, the director of the recently set up but highly successful Khan Study Group (KSG), A.R. Khan, had said: We focus on the skills that are necessary for students to get into the job. Any coaching institute has a limited job. But in the process, we try to make them better people. We have our methods to keep the students oriented towards their goal. We call it POD [Proof of Delivery]. Both teachers and students, after their class, should feel that they have delivered at their levels. So what we do is put them through a specially designed test. If they are able to answer the questions in the test, both the teacher and the students are satisfied. We pay attention to every student because we are not a huge number here.
With a massive increase in the number of candidates appearing for the highly demanding CSE, competition is high not only among the students but also between the coaching institutes. The institutes constantly update their teaching methods and content. Their success rate is also high. According to one estimate, each year at least four lakh people appear for the CSE. This massive response forced the UPSC to conduct the CSE over a period of one year, with a preliminary test that screens out the non-serious candidates followed by the main examination, spanning almost a month. The candidates who score high marks in the main examination are called for interviews, and depending upon the number of vacancies available each year, a final list of successful candidates is announced.
In view of the changes in the Indian polity, the CSE has undergone some major changes. In the first stage of the CSE, preliminary tests were introduced in which the candidate was required to take two objective papers: one on General Studies and the other, Paper II, in an optional subject.
However, with the changing requirements of the civil services in the complex governance model that came into place after economic globalisation, the government wanted more people with better managerial aptitudes. After several discussions, the UPSC introduced the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) instead of an optional paper in the preliminary stage. The CSAT tests the candidates' decision-making abilities, basic mathematical skills, and proficiency in the English language. The preliminary exam is thus more on the lines of the Common Admission Test (CAT) for candidates opting for management programmes except that the candidates for civil services need to be well-versed in general studies.Bilingual faculty
In Delhi, because of a high number of Hindi-speaking candidates, the coaching institutes lay stress on bilingual faculty members or a completely Hindi module of coaching. What is crucial is that the mushrooming of these institutes has resulted in the availability of good preparatory content in the market and has solved the problem of dearth of material. If a candidate does not have the resources to takes lessons in the classroom, the coaching institutes offer correspondence courses.
Our correspondence courses are one among the most successful in the market. We realised the need of people who could not come to Delhi and yet were interested in making it to the civil services. We have developed our correspondence modules keeping this in mind, said Gupta. Rau's IAS Study Circle has a branch in Jaipur, Rajasthan.
In the 1970s, most of the candidates came with a humanities background, but recent trends have established that people choosing science subjects as their optionals have a high chance of qualifying. The idea perhaps is to select candidates who are not only well-versed in their respective subjects but competent enough to analyse the Indian polity and foreign policy.
The introduction of the CSAT and the changing pattern of the CSE indicate this trend. Rote learning, which had inadvertently become an integral part of preparation for the preliminary examination, is being done away with. Apart from the CSAT, where the overall development of a candidate is tested, the questions in the main examination are becoming more and more analytical.
Questions that require factual answers are being avoided and those that require a clear understanding and grasp of the subjects are being examined. This has been evident in the pattern of the CSE questions in the past five years.
Considering the poor quality of higher education in semi-urban and rural India, the coaching institutes have become a huge attraction. When civil services coaching is integrated with personality development programmes, it becomes even more lucrative. One of the most popular personality development programmes is the Art of Success run by the Chanakya IAS Academy. A.K. Mishra, the director of Chanakya, said: Art of Success is a motivational-cum-training programme that aims at unleashing the unlimited power of the human mind. I feel that everyone has unlimited powers to succeed and reach any height in life. Everyone is born with a set of unique potentials, and if he is trained properly in the art to use his potential, he can create wonders in his life and in society. Unfortunately, the motivation level in the youth of our country in general is low as they grow up in an atmosphere of insecurity and cut-throat competition, without much emotional back-up or the right training to face these. Through this programme I help my students recognise their true potential and learn how to use it to be sure of their success, be it in the Civil Services Examinations or in any other field. The Art of Success programme has been made an integral part of the well-known guidance programme of Chanakya IAS Academy, namely, the Upgraded Foundation Course and the Interview Guidance Programme, and it has shown tremendous results.Analytical capabilities
The process of decentralisation and specialisation, which has resulted in the creation of new departments in governance, has made it imperative for bureaucrats to have not just managerial skills but also analytical capabilities to find the best possible solutions. This is reflected in the CSE. The government now requires many more bureaucrats than it previously did. The escalation of internal security problems has necessitated the appointment of a larger number of police officers. Similarly, the implementation of the Right to Information Act, 2004, has resulted in the appointment of information officers to serve the Central Information Commission. The Central Vigilance Commission has a dearth of officers. The vacancies created by these new models of governance are good news for civil service aspirants. The coaching institutes have realised and understood what the government requires of a civil servant. As a result, their focus has also changed from plain teaching of subjects to training the individual in a holistic way.Aspirants of power'
D. Kumar of Origin IAS Study Centre said: Civil service aspirants are actually aspirants of power', knowingly or otherwise, and the well-informed ones understand the power mechanism. Economy and technology were always important but have emerged as decisive forces in the modern world order. The division of power between the West and the East as well as between city' and village' is governed largely by their control over economic and technological resources. Geographically strong regions stand a better chance of material prosperity, but mature political outlook of a society, with a visionary leadership, ensures time-bound and consistent progress. So, the administrators of a country should have the aspiration to develop that critical minimum knowledge and understanding which are required for the acquisition of power not only at the individual level but also at national and global levels.
The efforts made by the coaching institutes are welcome. They can bear fruit only if a civil services aspirant is ready to put in the hard work needed to take the tedious CSE, considered to be the toughest such examination in the world.
Gupta says: Learning about learning is real learning. A candidate must enjoy the journey of preparing for this exam; enjoy the process of reading and knowing more. If that happens, no examination is difficult.