• kewal sethi

upsc exams and language controversy

csat and the agitation


one of my colleagues has written the following about the current agitation against CSAT.

"There is a lot of hue and cry all over the country over the CSAT examination. The anti - english lobby in the country is up in arms against some questions in the papers which can be answered only by those who are educated in english. Thus in their opinion it is not a level playing field for those who are not confident in their english. it is a purely politically motivated action. However the Govt. in power is now duty bound to find a way out of the impasse.

The solution offered that marks of the english question would not be counted in the results has been rejected by the protestors. So what is the solution? Here are a few suggestions that may be considered.

government. should not succumb to the protestor's demand and make any change in either the paper or marking system. instead it can hire translators who can assist the candidates by translating the question in hindi or for that matter in any regional language acceptable to the candidate. Thus the basic knowledge level required of the candidates will remain unaffected because of the language.

such a move will open a lot of opportunity all over the country for those proficient in local regional languages and hindi and are ready to learn english which remains the link language in central services.

those who opt for translators services during exam and are finally found fit for the job should be absorbed in the bureaucracy. they should be allowed a personal translator in their office who would translate their incoming and outgoing letters for them. it will bb a matter of time before these officer will themselves decide to improve their proficiency in the official working language. moreover, many of the present protestors may find a good opportunity to get jobs as translators.


the comments about providing translators are not in lighter vein. however, the remarks that many of the protesters may become translators themselves betray another angle. .


i recall that in the seventies, a question asked in a general knowledge test was about three languages used in computers. the answer expected was basic, cobol and fortran, then (in seventies) commonly in use. coming from a mofussil town, my sons had not seen a computer, much less used it for programming. their answer was - english, french and german.(one of them has now a doctorate in computer science and others are also well versed in computers)


the candidates from areas other than delhi, chennai and other advanced centres of

learning would be able to reply to the questions asked in upsc exam. those belonging to backward (sic) areas would not. the fault lies with the education system which is based on anything but free thinking.


the question is where should the educational reforms begin. should upsc be the first to introduce it or should the process start in colleges, or even earlier.


we are part of the elite and would wish to maintain the same character of services but would it be desirable. i recall that before sixties, getting qualifying marks in the interview was compulsory. as a rule it favoured those from elite colleges - st. stephen, presidency college, a n jha hostel allahabad which were the alma mater of many on the interview board. i also recall in one case, that the students from st. stephen got 360 marks out of 400 while some from punjab university got much less. in fact one got zero. since by then the requirement to  qualify in interview was withdrawn, he did get into service on the basis of marks in written exam. he retired as chief secretary. there was hardly any difference in their level of understanding but the bias was with those on the interviewing board.


it is the same prejudice which is feared by the examinees who are protesting.


the solution must take this into consideration. 

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