Guts, Grit and Glory | Lessons to Learn

Public-private partnership can be a way forward to military education and filling up officer shortage

Maj. Gen. R.S. Mehta (retd)Maj Gen Raj Mehta (retd)

The path-breaking, Shemrock School-Armed Forces Preparatory Institute (AFPI), Punjab public-private partnership for imparting quality education to young military aspirants has resulted in a staggering 111 cadets joining India’s elite military training academies since 2012; the NDA, being primary among them.

This successful ‘pilot project’ in military-civil education between the Punjab government’s AFPI and a forward-looking private school in Mohali, Punjab, makes one wonder whether this model cannot be replicated in every state of the Union of India considering that the sainik/military school system nowhere near meets India’s need for officer induction into the defence forces. There is a need, too, to review military education at the overarching level of the upcoming Indian National Defence University (INDU) as also streamline the current system of officer cadet entry to India’s defence academies. The winner in this will obviously be the quality of professional military education (PME) imparted in India.

India has been promoting ‘Make in India’ as well as changes in Public-Private Partnership to improve our defence outlay since the current government took over in 2014. Whereas both aspirations have met with a modicum of success, it is not certain whether military education was also targeted for such improvement in outlook and content. The INDU remains a three-phase dream project costing Rs 2,072 crore under construction since December 2015. There have been no public inputs whatsoever on where things stand except the May 2018 news that a bus bay has been sanctioned for its expected 12,000-15,000 student/ teacher population. The UPSC exam system for officer entry into the defence forces remains essentially unchanged for decades (ironically, the UPSC exam has undergone radical change for the Civil Services examination regimen with thinking responses being preferred to rote testing).

The PME system run by the defence forces also remains unchanged. At entry level though, the Defence Institute of Psychological Research (DIPR), a DRDO Laboratory, has been pushing its much-hyped five-years under-formulation ‘De Novo’ SSB examination system which has reduced the five-day SSB testing in vogue since 1948 to three days ‘without loss of quality or focus’ as per DIPR claims. It is on trial since 2016 at SSB Bangalore along with the current system and has invited mixed responses from veterans. Let us examine these issues dispassionately.

The Shemrock School-Armed Forces Preparatory Institute (AFPI) in Punjab

Entry Level Officer Induction

We have 26 Sainik Schools (21 more have been proposed and Rs 80 crore earmarked for them, as per a PTI report of 11 August 2017 on Parliamentary proceedings). In a written reply to Parliament, RRM S.R. Bhamre stated that the 26 Sainik Schools in 2016, fed 159 or 29.33 per cent cadets and the five Military Schools fed 31 cadets or 5.1 per cent cadets to the NDA in 2016. In the same year, media reports indicated that 25 cadets from the elite RIMC cleared the NDA UPSC exam with seven of them being in the top 20.

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