26 September 2023

INDIA: Examination language bias alleged

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India’s hallowed examination system for entry into the country’s Public Service is coming under increasing attack from candidates who have said that it lacks transparency over how systems and syllabus operate.

Front and centre is whether the operator, the Union Public Service Commission (UPSC), favours candidates who elect to take the examination in English over those who choose Hindi, the first language of the majority of Indians.

Critics point to the example of Suraj Singh Parihar who in 2013 chose Hindi to converse with the USPC Interview Board.

Mr Parihar made it to the merit list but with a rank lower than he wanted.

A year later he took the examination again but this time in English, he got the ranking he wanted and became an officer with the Indian Police Service.

While the UPSC has not yet released its detailed annual report for the 2020 examination, data from coaching institutions suggests just 1.5 per cent of those who took the examination in Hindi made it to the final merit list.

Mr Parihar believes the problem partly lies in poor quality Hindi translations of the question papers’ original English texts.

“The examination is highly competitive. One or two marks, even decimal points in some cases, can decide the fate of a candidate,” Mr Parihar said.

“It is very unfortunate when an aspirant is unable to make it to the final list due to the poor translation of the questions,” he said.

“We live in a world where skilled linguists and content creators translate complex novels accurately, so why is it difficult to prepare an error-free translation of a question paper?”

Mr Parihar said he believed that translation was not the only reason why few candidates who took the CSE in Hindi made it to the final merit list.

“The entire approach, curriculum, and pedagogy of the education system in the Hindi belt of India need an overhaul,” he said.

Mr Parihar also points out that English is mostly spoken by upper-Caste Indians, which could be leading to a Caste bias in the Public Service in general.

New Delhi, 23 October 2021

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