Half a decade ago, when I graduated, my father advised me to prepare for BCS so seriously as if 'my life depended on it. He was speaking metaphorically, but deep down, I knew he meant every word of it. Those of my generation raised in suburban middle-class families should relate how our parents crave their children to become BCS cadres.
I did not take my father's advice seriously. And my father believes that I have made a serious mistake.
But tens of thousands have taken this advice very seriously.
One of them is my friend Riad Hossain. After completing his MBA from Dhaka University, one of the few things he has been doing is memorising lines from some sixteenth-century English poets that he never heard of before, and he will vomit it out of his brain after he is 30 years old (BCS age limit). And yes, some other things he has been doing include memorising archaic Charyapada stanzas from the eighth century, names of the middle Asian capitals, etc. However, I am not risking my friendship with Riad Hossain; and hence I am not telling his real name.
Now, I do not have a problem if some MBA holders learn about George Gascoigne, John Skelton, or Edmund Spenser; love their poetry and memorise them. Knowledge is a precious commodity, after all, and you will find it in rare places. But what our generation is doing – for the sake of identifying the correct option out of four in MCQ exams – has nothing to do with knowledge. It is a terrible waste of a young man's precious hours.
On the other hand, I also have friends who developed startups from scratch, who turned out excellent professionals ready to lead the next generation of big enterprises, writing thought-provoking pieces for respected international newspapers and magazines, and who turned out successful entrepreneurs. Sadly, in comparison to the BCS friends, this number is quite low. And only a few of them (BCS friends) will be successful because, on average, the PSC employs around 2,000 cadres a year while the number of candidates is more than four lac and increasing every year.
Besides, imagine what happens when tens of thousands of these young people pass their age limits and fail to get the BCS job? I have met plenty of such people who turned 30 with no work experiences and skills – broken, shattered, hopeless, depressed, humiliated – roaming around seeking a fresher's job that they should have begun some seven to eight years ago once they graduated.
Why this craze? This madness for a government job? We all know what is propelling this crowd to BCS – job security, social recognition, the scope of power exercise, private sector's unattractive job packages and wretched salary packages in the beginning, parents' pressure, peer pressure, etc. So, it is indeed a weird time that no matter what you studied – engineering, medical, or philosophy – your aim in life is to become a police officer, a magistrate, or a tax officer.
I am not saying the pressures are not valid. I recognise these legit pressures since I endure them myself more as a nonconformist in my father's eyes who chose journalism as a career and "made a big mistake" in society's eyes. I also do not believe BCS is an unnecessary job and people should stay away from it. My contention here is this profession alone should not be the reason for so many young people's bane. And beyond these pressures, I find mediocrity as a driving force.
Mediocrity is a vital driver often overlooked in diagnosing our BCS craze. With all the facilities combined a BCS cadre can legally enjoy in his career, this line of career could not have created this frenzy unless we are a mediocre generation. You will nowhere find smart people worshipping government employees like demigods the way we do here in Bangladesh. An excellent force of people will embrace the ceiling breaking entrepreneurs, change-makers in real life and the thought leaders as their champions, as their idols.
It is easy to blame our overall system (education, employment, public and private sector disparities, peer pressure, parents pressure etc. as already discussed) for the current BCS frenzy. But as an insider of the generation who are into the final storm of this banal fever, I believe this craze was indeed made easy thanks to our mediocrity – our desires to live an indolent life of social recognition and lethargy to achieve ceiling breaking achievements in life.
A hardworking and talented generation would not give in to such conventionally effortless means of consummating power and an average monthly salary when they got the talents to grow the next generation economic hub, thought school and potentials to spearhead a technological revolution in this digital world.
If we weren't mediocre, we would rather fight for what we deserve. Once again, I have nothing against government jobs. This repeated disclaimer because I am aware of our youth's most popular argument – age chancee peye dekhan (First, pass the exam, huh)? I am troubled with a generation's indulgence in the laziness of embracing unchallenging salaried jobs instead of improving their skills and dreaming big to earn their rightful places.
And my final question to the readers, are you one of the people who often decries how top executive positions at our big corporations are full of foreigners? And here's my answer to you, "is it not the most reasonable consequence when a nation cannot dream big?"
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard