Spain to modernise examination system for civil servants

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Spanish civil servants exam to receive overhaul

Spain will end the so-called “oposiciones”, the intensive competition that all civil servants must pass. If successful, candidates must pass further tests before being allowed to hold public office.

The old-fashioned system is now being replaced by a more modern and accessible variant. According to Carles Ramió of the University of Pompeu Fabra, it is unnecessary to have applicants complete entire studies when intelligence and personality are ultimately the most important. There are sufficient alternatives available for measuring these two aspects, which are also a lot cheaper.

Not memory but social skills for civil servants

Miguel Sánchez Morón, lecturer in Administrative Law at the University of Alcalá, has for years criticised the old-fashioned civil servants exam system, in use in Spain for over a hundred years. According to Morón, candidates have to memorise way too much material on far too many subjects. In this way, it is only testing how well someone can recall information. There is hardly any attention to problem-solving skills, team building or dedicated service, for example.

System is too unwieldy

In the new selection procedures, the testing of ready knowledge will therefore make way for more modern test methods. These will focus on personality, social behaviour and matters such as the willingness to innovate. In addition, the selection procedures will be faster and more flexible than is currently the case. For example, the cumbersome selection system prevented Spain from hiring additional medical personnel during the first months of the pandemic.

Too many missed opportunities

The costs for the exams needs to decrease. For example, graduates should receive a grant that gives them the space to spend time on the selection procedures. In addition, the current system throws out a large group of candidates who have successfully completed their studies, but fail the tough “oposiciones” or simply fail to make it to the finish line for this exam.

Statistically, half of the students drop out within five years after the start of the preparations. Further, only 10% to 30% participate in the final exams. That means a disproportionate investment of time, money and energy.

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