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Millennium Post

GOOD, BAD AND THE UGLY

The four-year-undergraduate degree course is here to stay, with Delhi University leading the way; Haryana, too, following other universities, will follow shortly. Each time there is a change, there is a pro and an anti lobby, but with the Supreme Court making its stand clear, the old order is going to change, yielding place to a new one. The first thing that emerges is that the Union Public Service Commission must quickly come clean and clear the air as to what is acceptable to them, as it will quickly stabilise the situation. The change in system is bound to affect the civil services, banks, insurance, Para Military Forces to name a few, while the Army will have to take a call. How will the job market view this needs some examination, with every one wanting the best. How will the students see the three-year course versus the new four-year course, as the remodeled honours course sets them up for post graduation in any institution, in India and abroad, thus shooting up its value higher.

Currently, the minimum education qualification for the Army is graduation, which implies a three-year course, though it also has large requirement for postgraduates, the basic course being the Staff College and other technical courses. As per the revised university norms, an officer with a three-year degree course may not be eligible for a postgraduate course, thus the impact of the new system on the army needs to be examined.  Peer pressure will create two types of officers in the Army – one with three-year pass course and one with the FYUP – thus creating a tiered system which will adversely affect the cohesiveness of the officer class.

The older generation of officers of whom a few are available are products of ten years of academic content and four years of professional content, which included fine academic input as well. This generation of officers fought all the big wars and was the bedrock of the forces; the average age on commission was around 20 plus or minus. In 1975, it was changed to graduate entry, meaning fifteen years of academic input and one year of professional content. It implied that the age on commission went up to 22 plus or minus. It also set some bench marks – the first that the army or the UPSC will only accept graduates, and next, the maximum that the forces could accept would be sixteen or sixteen and half years of academic and training content for a young officer or else it would have a snowballing impact on the youthful profile of the forces and also impact on post-graduation courses that the army runs.

The current scheme is that the National Defence Academy officer does ten plus two, then enters NDA and does three years thus earning a graduation degree, and one year at IMA, so does the Army Cadet College cadet, while both the direct entry and the short service officer completes graduation, as also, the ten plus two technical entry do four years content, or a total of sixteen years of professional and academic instruction, equivalent to an FYUP degree. Thus, in the current scheme of things, if three-year pass course is minimum, then the apple cart is not so badly affected. The caveat comes on account of peer pressure and tacking post-graduation degree that the Army provides. Will the Short Service Commissioned officer risk his entire career on a three-year course? This ipso facto will imply that they will come with a FYUP degree and age of induction of the support cadre of the Army will become more, whereas, conventional wisdom worldwide is to get them young, train them and release them to become better citizens.

It is here that the Human Development Resource Ministry needs to think of the problem as this is a human development issue as well. The forces must get the qualified officers; Army Education Corps induct Hawalidar as graduates, but will three-year courses be acceptable?

Luckily for the Army, two things are happening in tandem. The first is that the Defence University has just been started, and the second, a high-powered committee is examining the entire gambit of induction, selection training and other issues. The Army should insist on sixteen years of total academic and professional curriculum, even it means burning midnight oil for all associated with training.

The Honours degree should be worked out with the defence university, thus the DE inducted after three years of graduation, the ex NDA or the ACC and the ten plus two technical entry scheme will not only get honours graduation degree, but will also qualify them for the one years masters degree in military sciences at the staff college, with out any hiccups. Also, a vast number of other mechanical and other IT courses where graduation with honours will become the minimum qualification will be accessible to the army cadet.

The Army must seize the opportune moment and not wait to reinvent the wheel later. As far as the short service officer is concerned, he needs to have a qualification that the UPSC accepts for civil services and Para Military Forces, or else they will lose out on lateral induction. So, his training may be condensed or other ways need to be found to work this out.
The author is a retired brigadier
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