Private academies and institutes that train CSS hopefuls have seen a boom in recent years. They might not be the best way to succeed at the competitive examinations
When it comes to preparing for competitive examinations like Central Superior Services (CSS) and Provincial Management Services (PMS), most aspirants/candidates prefer to come to Lahore, especially those who are based in smaller towns. Their reason: Lahore offers better facilities in terms of libraries and bookshops as well as teachers and coaching institutes.
Due to the competitive nature of the exams, the aspirants often choose to enroll in private institutes/academies or privately seek guidance from teachers.
The market is flooded with academies — there’s one to be found in every little, big locality of Lahore. Each of these comes with huge claims about their standards of excellence. They also advertise their success stories with great pomp. All of which makes it hard for the aspirants to pick the right place and/or individual (teacher).
They all have varying price tags, but generally, a four-month session at a CSS academy will cost you upwards of Rs 60,000. An average teacher, on the other hand, will charge you close to Rs 10,000 per month.
Some of the academies such as the Institute of Competitive Exam Preparation (ICEP), KIPS Institute, Jahangir World Times, and Bahria Institute receive students from afar. The aspirants have a lot at stake when they travel to another city for studies. Hence they expect — and are expected to produce — good results.
Sadly, their expectations aren’t always met. When profitability takes precedence and the managements of the academies enroll bulks of students which they are obviously not able to take individual care of, things are bound to go wrong. Fatima Batool, a CSS mentor and assistant professor at a local university, tells TNS: “Most of these academies don’t boast professional teachers who could help the candidates to achieve their goals.”
She also criticises the way the students perceive their own performance in the exams: “A CSP is a former candidate who (once, twice or thrice) attempted a paper that was not only set by a teacher but also checked by a teacher. […] Students often miscalculate their own performance in the exams and rarely understand the rubrics of marking.”
According to Almas Sabeeh Saqib, a PMS official who moonlights as a private CSS tutor, the academies are “trying to fill the void created by our educational system. We are there to guide [the candidates], but a lot depends on their educational track record and, of course, their abilities.”
“A CSP is a former candidate who (once, twice or thrice) attempted a paper that was not only set by a teacher but also checked by a teacher. […] Students often miscalculate their own performance in the exams and rarely understand the rubrics of marking.” — Fatima Batool, a CSS mentor and assistant professor at a local university.
The one subject that spells horror for the candidates appearing for the competitive exam is English essay and composition. A majority of candidates fail these. No wonder, all CSS academies invariably market their success ratio in these subjects.
According to Majid Amir, a senior academic counsellor at the Institute of Competitive Exam Preparation (ICEP), “To tackle the issue of English language papers, we have especially designed a one-year curriculum wherein we begin with the English foundation course. It helps the students get ahead. We also make sure all students appear in the tests regularly and submit their assignments.”
The candidates who have attended these academies have mixed things to say. While some consider them a good help, others see them as a sheer waste of time and resources. Aslam Raza, from Sindh, says he “will advise every CSS hopeful to join an academy because there they will come across many good teachers whose lectures are great help.
“You can’t learn by yourself how to attempt [the CSS exam]; you need guidance from successful people,” he adds.
There’s no denying the fact that many successful CSS candidates from remote areas prepared for their exams at the academies. A metropolitan city like Lahore is a dream place to start your preparations at. But it would be a fallacy to depend entirely on these institutes. For its part, the government should give education the priority it deserves. Our education system needs a complete overhaul. Today it is seen giving rise to the drill of rote learning. Students coming out from such a system can’t be expected to perform well in the competitive exams. They will inevitably seek guidance and may become easy targets for people who are in the business solely to mint money.
The writer is a freelance graphic designer. He tweets @Ehteysham1