CHENNAI: For a State that boasts of a stellar gross enrolment ratio (GER) of 51.4 per cent in higher education, which is twice the national average of 27.1 per cent, huge investments in higher education, and a commendable show in the NIRF rankings, the drop in performance in the highly competitive Civil Services Exam has become a matter of concern as just 3 per cent of candidates who made the cut this year are from Tamil Nadu.
Of the 685 candidates who cleared the Civil Services Exam conducted by the Union Public Service Commission for the year 2021, only 27 candidates are from Tamil Nadu. The percentage of qualifiers has dropped to 3 from 5 last year. This is the State’s worst performance in the last 10 years.
Though there are no State-wise official figures, data compiled by former IAS officers and coaching centres show a steady decline in the performance in the combined examination for all-India services such as IAS and IPS, and several other Central services.
In 2014, of the 1,126 candidates who cleared the exam, 119 or 11 per cent were from Tamil Nadu. In 2017, at least 7 per cent of the successful candidates were from Tamil Nadu. In 2019, the ratio dropped to 6.69 per cent, and in 2020 it hit 5 per cent.
Incidentally, Tamil Nadu's higher education institutions have been consistently scoring well in the NIRF (National Institutional Ranking Framework) rankings over the same period.
Better job opportunities in the private sector, lack of availability of adequate study materials in Tamil, lack of proficiency in English language, and long years of preparation needed to crack the exam are some of the reasons cited by experts and candidates for the drop in performance.
'Attractive private jobs swerve candidates away from government employment'
ISRAEL Jebasingh, former IAS officer and director of Officers IAS Academy, said, "With rapid industrialisation, more private jobs are available now and they offer attractive pay packages, better lifestyle and even foreign trips. Because of this, the craze for government jobs, including in civil services, among academically bright students has dropped significantly."
The perseverance and patience needed to crack civil services exam is also missing in youngsters, Jebasingh said. S Chandru, academic head of Shankar IAS Academy, said lack of proficiency in English and Tamil languages is a major reason for Tamil Nadu candidates' tepid show in the CSE race.
"Our students are neither able to write the test in Tamil nor they are good in English. Because of this, they are not able to score good marks in aptitude test," Chandru said. He also pointed out that after Class 10, most students stop studying language subjects seriously.
According to Chandru, on an average, 40,000 students from Tamil Nadu write the UPSC exam every year, but, due to the pandemic there has been a drop in the number of candidates also. "There is no accurate figure but the number of candidates has certainly come down by 8000 to 10,000," said Chandru.
KM Ilanchezian, who trains civil services aspirants, said, "Earlier, students used to appear for UPSC exam until they exhausted their last attempt, but now aspirants quit after two attempts and start looking for other career opportunities."
Civil services aspirants say the State government should provide necessary support to improve Tamil Nadu’s performance in the exam. "I feel the desire for civil services is more in rural areas than in cities. But government school students from villages, who are wellversed in Tamil and who would want to write the exam in the language, don't have enough study materials in Tamil to prepare for the exam," said V Ramya, a Theni native who is undergoing IAS coaching in Chennai and aims to write the exam in Tamil next year.
S Sivanandham, who secured the 87th rank this year in CSE, said the State government should provide stipend or monetary support to candidates who qualify in UPSC prelims like other States. "Due to financial problems, many students have to give up their dream of becoming IAS even after qualifying in prelims. I have seen many brilliant students joining TNPSC and bank jobs even after clearing prelims as they cannot afford to prepare for the mains exam year after year," said Sivanandham.
'Lure of government jobs declining'
More private jobs now offer attractive pay packages, better lifestyles, and even foreign trips, said a former IAS officer, explaining that this has reduced the craze for government jobs, including in the civil services