Professional colleges should launch study centres; district library should get more reference books

It is often projected as Herculean task, but cracking the civil service examinations is a passport to some of the most coveted administrative positions in the country. The results of the 2012 examinations released last week did not hold much cheer for tier-two cities like Tiruchi where a top-ranking candidate is hailed as a celebrity of sorts, owing to the relatively low success rate.

Although there are dime a dozen centres that promise to churn out prospective IAS officers, they seldom do. In the process, a notion is cultivated — it is a prerequisite for aspirants who want to crack the exams to “train” in metropolitan cities like Delhi and Chennai. Academies and experts rubbish the notion as a myth.

Suresh Kumar, programme advisor of Tiruchi Academy for Competitive Examinations (TRACE), an initiative by the district welfare committee with the Collector at the helm, lists successful candidates from Tiruchi and neighbouring towns whose preparations were in their hometown — Jacintha Lazarus, who bagged the 27th rank at the all-India level; Vimala, a housewife who secured the 167th rank and Dr. Senthilraj who bagged the 57th rank, among others.

Overloaded

Jeevan, who spent more than a year preparing for the exams in a top Delhi institute before heading home to Tiruchi, agrees with Mr. Suresh. “Sometimes top institutes overload a candidate with information which may confuse him. They insist on in-depth reading of a subject while the UPSC actually requires a generalist wide-reaching grasp of varied subjects.”

Ronak, a commerce graduate, who travelled extensively to various cities to gather resources, says: “If you have the courage and commitment, it does not matter which part of India you belong to.” Help in the form of inputs from experts and a study group helps, he says. Aspirants acknowledge that the city has a dearth of resources, particularly experts well-versed with exam strategies. Individual preparation counts, says Hemachitra, a postgraduate aspirant. “While I feel Tiruchi would do for preparing for preliminary exams, taking mock tests and interview in a metro helps the candidate assess where she stands in comparison with competitors.”

Students point to the lack of study material available for reference in the District Central Library. “There is a section devoted to civil services preparation but the books are outdated,” says an aspirant. “If the library updates its stock, many students, particularly the underprivileged, will benefit.” District Library Officer Shivakumar said the library which would soon shift to a new and larger premises proposes to allot a separate space for students preparing for competitive exams. “If the aspirants can notify us on the books required, we will purchase them. We plan to start a study circle attached to the library when it moves to its new premises in the heart of the city.”

Role of schools

The revised pattern of the exams with more focus on analytical skills and aptitude and less subject specialisation bias will see the rise of a new breed of candidates, says Suresh Kumar.

More professional college students are prone to take up civil services, thanks to the revised pattern, according to Varun Raj, an engineer. “Civil service study centres should be launched in engineering colleges to introduce it as a career option to students. Currently, they are placement oriented.” While many arts and science colleges in the city have the facility, Arun, an aspirant from Thirupattur, says: “Colleges have experts in various subject areas like history, but they fall behind when it comes to training students in strategies, patterns, and exam trends.” Schools too have a role to play as the “early bird catches the worm” adage holds good in the scenario, say aspirants. “The aspiration often crops up while finishing school and it is important for students to get inputs from the right people on civil services,” says Ronak. “Career guidance programmes talk about medicine, engineering but rarely about civil services.” Although TRACE does not charge fees, a full-time government run academy with expert faculty would be a boon to students in central and south Tamil Nadu, according to Anupam Sunil, an aspirant.

“Not everyone can afford to go to Delhi and Chennai to prepare, but clearly those students have an advantage. By setting up such an institute, the government can ensure a level playing field for aspirants from small centres,” he says.

Suresh Kumar, programme advisor, TRACE: Institutes here can tide the imbalance between small cities and metros by linking with top institutes outside.

Hemachitra, IAS aspirant: Candidates from rural areas, Tamil-medium background or first timers will benefit from a study circle in a tier-two city and find the student composition less intimidating.