Apart from the graduates, the preliminary examination results that were declared yesterday should worry policy makers and the society more.

With only 27 percent, 927 graduates managing to score more than 50 percent to sit for the main civil service examination, we recorded one of the worst prelim results this year.

This is a significant drop from last year’s prelim results where 75 percent of the graduates scored 50 percent and above. According to the Royal Civil Service Commission, the objective of the examination is to shortlist candidates for the Main Examination and ensures minimum standard required of a candidate. It tests a graduate’s English and Dzongkha communication skills, logic and analytical, problem solving and data interpretation abilities.

Going by this criterion, we now have 2,482 graduates that do not meet the minimum standard required of a candidate. What does it mean when our university graduates are not able to analyse and interpret data and solve problems?

While details of graduates who couldn’t score the prelims pass mark is not yet available, their performance raises serious questions on the quality of education they graduate with, be it from schools at home or abroad. It is disturbing that the number of graduates who failed the prelims this year is almost the same as those who passed the examination last year.

Some graduates say that the examination this year was challenging. During the orientation, they had pointed out that the two and a half hour time allotted was not enough to write the examination. To the graduates, these may be valid reasons. To the commission, these may sound like excuses they have heard before.

It is understood that the limited number of vacancies in the civil service makes the competition fierce. One could also argue that even if the number of graduates passing the prelims was higher, there is only space for 494 of them.

Yet, the civil service examination is a process that recruits civil officials on merit. And when more than 70 percent of our university graduates are unable to meet the minimum criteria to become a civil servant, we have a problem. When we have more unemployable graduates in the market where mismatch of jobs persist, we have a problem.

A performance such as this must trigger a study of the civil service examinations. The graduates are a product of our education system and when our students perform poorly, questions are usually raised on the quality of education. While this opens a debate on the purpose of education, we have for long heard from those in the system and outside, of the quality of education declining in the country. What we haven’t been told is if the quality was ever ‘high’ for it to decline.

Instead of the authorities taking offences and being defensive, we call for a holistic study of the country’s education system and its impact on the civil service, a society’s backbone. For even as we assess and critique our education system, we must appreciate that we are what we are today because of the education sector.