“Candidates have the flexibility to choose their preferred medium of language to write answers in the Main, but unavailability of question papers in regional languages in Prelims is a serious challenge for non-Hindi speaking students,” says Prassanna Kumar, AIR 100 in UPSC 2020.
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Many students lose the chance of clearing the exam at the very first stage as they may not be able to comprehend the entire question paper coming from a regional language background, which is quite discriminatory. It is of no use to allow candidates to write CSE Main in the language of their choice when maximum eliminations happen after Prelims, which is conducted in either English or Hindi,” says Prassanna, a native of Puducherry, adding that all candidates who studied at government-run schools are facing more challenges as compared to those students like him who studied at CBSE schools or English medium schools in urban areas. Prassana, an MBBS graduate from JIPMER, earlier qualified the CSE in 2017. He did not join as he was not satisfied with the profile offered based on his rank. He picked up English to write his exam.
Indian language as medium of interview
According to UPSC annual reports, in 2018, 1774 candidates who qualified for CSE personality test opted for English while 250 opted for an Indian language as the medium of interview.
Among 250 candidates, 204 opted for Hindi, followed by 23 for Marathi, six each for Kannada and Tamil, five Gujarati, three Telugu, two Punjabi and one candidate gave his interview in Assamese.
In 2017, total 2271 candidates chose English while 297 candidates opted for an Indian language as the medium for the interview. In 2016, out of 2961 candidates who qualified for the personality test, 2582 students opted for English while 379 candidates opted for an Indian language as the medium for interview.
On the smaller number of candidates opting for Indian language for the interview round, Prassanna, says that unavailability of study materials in regional languages is the biggest challenge in the preparation process. “Irrespective of the region, majority of the CSE aspirants use study materials in English which could be a reason for the lesser number of aspirants opting for Indian language for the interview session,” he adds.
On the other hand, serving officers believe that candidates should not see language as a barrier. “As part of IAS Professional Course at Lal Bahadur Shastri National Academy of Administration (LBSNAA), future officers are trained in a wide range of subjects to enable them to handle varied assignments that they would hold in the first 10 years of their service. They are also taught regional language as per the allotted state to better appreciate its administrative and cultural ethos,” says an official on condition of anonymity who cleared the CSE in 2013. “There should be no hue and cry over language of the CSE question papers. If future officers have no problem in learning a new language as part of the training,” the official adds.