Interview with V.P. Gupta, director of Rau's IAS Study Circle.
V.P. GUPTA, director of Rau's IAS Study Circle, which is one of the oldest institutes in India to coach aspiring bureaucrats, spoke to Frontline about the Civil Services Aptitude Test (CSAT) and the challenge of training candidates aspiring to become civil servants. Excerpts from the interview:
The Union Public Service Commission (UPSC) introduced the CSAT in the Civil Services (Preliminary) examinations in 2011. What has been the response of students and what is your analysis of the CSAT?
Students have reacted very positively to the new format adopted by the UPSC. It is a little offbeat for civil service students here though it is the norm elsewhere.
What are the basic differences between the previous model and the CSAT?
The major change is the dropping of the optional paper. There were two papers earlier General Studies, which covered the history, economy, geography, polity and defence of the country, and was the same for all candidates, and Paper II (optional subject). The candidate could choose one subject from a list of 23. In the CSAT [which has replaced the optional paper], there are even topics in quantitative aptitude. There are questions on English language comprehension, and decision-making skills. These are the fragments in the new format. One good aspect of the new pattern is that there is no learning by rote. The candidates must have a basic understanding of what is being written and react in a logical manner. It involves a basic knowledge of mathematics, logic and the English language.
Many people have compared the CSAT to CAT, or Common Admission Test for admission to business management schools.
Although the UPSC has denied any link between the two, there is no doubt there are similarities. This is welcome as there is nothing wrong with the CAT pattern. There is nothing wrong in taking elements from an existing pattern to examine or evaluate the ability of people. We are in the business of evaluating the talent and potential of a student and deciding on his/her suitability for a particular job on the basis of his/her ability to relate to situations and react in a logical fashion that the employer wants. In this case the employer is the government. It knows what it wants, and the examination pattern has been decided according to the needs of government jobs. And it happens that the government chose the CSAT.
What is the correct personality type of a bureaucrat in the present times?
The government is looking for a candidate on the basis of his ability to understand and comprehend any assignment given to him. Because the government is a huge machine and you have a position in that, you have to perform functions based on a certain position and in consensus with other parts and operators within the system.
There is a transactional analysis in all jobs. For example, a transaction moves from the Under Secretary to the Joint Secretary, then to the Secretary and then the Minister. So the candidate has to understand the function of the transaction and his position in the transaction. He has to perform sincerely, honestly and intelligently. In fact, intelligence comes before anything else. He should have integrity and honesty in the sense that he is not expected to be influenced by external conditions and he is not to disclose what is going on to people who should not know about it. This is the personality type the government is looking for.Is it also looking for critical minds?
Yes, critical and creative minds also. A certain level of critical thinking and creativity needs to be part of the overall personality. The candidate should have a multidisciplinary approach and he/she should be able to think on many issues on a parallel level before a decision is taken. These are the traits that the Government of India requires and these are the traits that are needed in any environment, not just government.
Are any changes expected in the Civil Services (Main) examinations, too?
There have been talks. The Chairman of the UPSC, Professor D.P. Aggarwal, recently had an occasion to talk about this in Jaipur. He did mention that the pattern of the main examination is expected to change from 2013. General Studies might be extended. There are already two General Studies papers, one Essay paper, one English and one Indian Language paper. In the Language and Essay papers, nothing much can be done. So they'll probably continue with some changes. But there will be a major shift in the General Studies paper as suggested by the Y.K. Alagh Committee. Half of its recommendations were implemented in May 2011 with regard to the preliminaries. What remains is the other half with regard to the main exam. General Studies would be more intense, and the area it covers would be increased. The optional paper was dropped as that is what the Alagh Committee had recommended. The idea is to provide a level playing field for all aspirants. The UPSC does not want to examine the candidates on their home ground as they have already been examined by a university.
How long has Rau's IAS Study been in the business of coaching? How has it reinvented itself in a continually changing context?
We started in 1953. We are the pioneers in the field of coaching for the civil services. Anybody who has come into the field has to refer to us our work, our notes and the content developed by us. Other coaching centres have to refer to the standards set by Rau's. Most of them [the teachers] are ex-students or ex-faculty members of Rau's, and that has become a qualification for teaching in this field. Rau's is the touchstone for quality, and our teaching methodology has become the benchmark.
Regarding our evolution, the USPC has gone through some three major changes over the past six years. We may be nearly 60 years old but at heart we are still 16. We relate to the environment and constantly reinvent ourselves as per the changes in the examination pattern. There is a continuous process of research. We are constantly looking to see how we can work on teaching patterns and teaching styles to meet the needs of students and the changing exam pattern.What are your specialisations?
Our specialisation is a high level of quality education, sincerity and planning. Everything in the study circle is planned, and planned again and again to ensure that there is no loophole, no shortcomings.
We are conscious of the fact that students are receiving what they've expected from us. We make sure that the time, money and effort the students put in result in something. We want them to learn to evolve and we believe that the evolution of the students' personae is very important. When they join Rau's, they should leave as better people.What are your specialisations?
We specialise in all the components of General Studies. The optional papers we are now teaching for the main exam are history, sociology, geography, public administration, psychology and economy. We have trained, able and committed faculty members to do the job.
What has been the success rate of the institute?
The success rate is around 25 per cent. We also train for interviews.