Among the changes introduced in the IAS examination by the Union Public Service Commission earlier this year, one seems to have worried the aspirants a great deal: making English a compulsory paper. The score in the English paper will now be taken into consideration while determining the rank in the competitive examination.
This is perceived as a major deterrent for aspirants from a rural background, for a majority of whom access to English medium education is difficult and hard to come by.
Says Sankaran, a resident of Virudhunagar who has moved to the city to attend IAS training sessions, “Although the weightage of the English paper has decreased, the fact that marks scored in it will be counted for the final rank worries me.”
Sankaran, for whom Tamil has been the medium of instruction for the better part of his academic career, is afraid that he may not be able to compete with students from English medium schools, mostly from urban centres. That his family has borrowed heavily to help him meet his lodging and coaching expenses worries him further. He isn’t alone, he points out that at least fifteen such students from his coaching institute share his fears.
Even experts seem to have been caught off guard at the drastic changes introduced in the examination. Subburaj, in-charge of Indian IAS Academy, Anna Nagar, is one. He says that some aspirants were crestfallen at the announcement. “They (the candidates) are certainly a frustrated lot. The timing of the announcement – when they are on the verge of attempting the IAS prelims – could not have been more inopportune.” A trainer at another IAS academy expressed his reservations about the condition pertaining to the change in language “We do not know what is in store for the aspirants, but it would be ideal if such changes were introduced in a phased manner,” he said.