Editor's Note: MVI is publishing the responses of serving officers without knowing (publishing) their names. The serving officers generally do not respond to our debates due to restrictions/restraints imposed on them by the service HQs. A few do respond in good faith and in larger organisational interest. The others opt to remain silent. Hence, our MVI debates remain restricted to the views and opinions of veterans only that too a select few. It is strongly felt that if the views, perceptions and suggestions of the serving officers is encouraged by the organisation/Service HQs several debates will be enriched and help project a much broader and realistic picture of the subject and related issues. This will immensely benefit the concerned military institutions and service HQs. In this debate DSSC could benefit. Let other institutions and their services benefit too!
The Article By Neil John:
Responses From Serving Officers (All Former DSSC Students/Instructors)
"Thoroughly analysed and put across in a manner that only Neil John can. The armed forces, especially the army, are notorious for spoiling the academicians especially the non faujis, the fauji academic process is as it is questionable because we try and situate the appreciation depending upon the end result that is pre-decided to be arrived at.
The civil faculty and research fellows, etc. would get into enjoying the perks and environment and slowly mould into the fauji way of research, if they are posted there, rather than being neutrally analysing the situation. I suppose that if they are located at a place other than DSSC instead of being involved in the course they may deliver better results. Other option may be to involve selected officers, based on their flair for research rather than their gradings or on study leave."
"Neil John has actually elaborated exactly what we all wanted to say but may be couldn’t put together our thoughts as concisely as he has done. Of course his experience of being posted at DSSC shows.
I just hope the comments reach the Commandant and people who matter to seriously make drastic changes in the Staff Course curriculum to make it more contemporary in its teaching."
"Till such time there is an overhaul in our system of course gradings and promotions, nothing much should be expected. We can only talk from sidelines"
"The moment I saw that US book on DSSC , I thought of comments by Neil John . There you are with very upright thoughts. Hopefully people up there will take cognisance of same towards organization interest."
"Possibly these guys do not understand that it is a Staff Course and not a Command Course. Staff work is very intensive and even repetitive. The context is to teach the planning in a specific manner to cover all aspects but it does not curb imagination."
"Change cannot be driven from the inside - too much inertia, workload and contradictory view points. Hence, it has to be driven from the outside, like you rightly said. Make the updation of syllabii a five yearly process. To be done by a external team comprising a Maj Gen from any of the three services, with three Brigs/ Cols from each service to be members one member from each service from the DS body representing each service. Give this panel one year to revise/ update and rewrite the syllabus, exercises, tutorials, etc., and at the end present it to the Joint CoSC and CDS, highlighting the additions/ deletions. This should be preceded by some iterations with some select DSSC staff and the Commandant and CIs etc. No yearly changes should be permitted and vague concepts, until they become doctrines need not be included. Minor updations can be done every year based on the influx of technical, but very cautiously. The DS body must teach and allow growth and should not be saddled with additional work of this nature. Tenures are short and they must deliver the cutting edge.
A regular faculty of studies is a welcome addition, but should comprise of officers on study leave doing fellowship ,etc, with relevant topics for DSSC curriculum. Regular officers tend to break cohesion of the institution and the hierarchy, if not strictly mandated and monitored. Finally , the content of the DSSC programme should jot be left to the Commandant and his team. To be truly world class, it needs to be answerable to the CDS and resp CsOS."
"The varieties articulated may be correct. But it has nothing to do with the service of the DS. Mostly first year DSs straight from command are trying to learn the tricks of the trade and are yet to adapt to a teaching role. But some with prior experience in teaching specially in the colleges of respective arms ( not academies) and have inclination to visit library more often than the golf course, settle well by the first semester. I for one never had a problem keeping a class wide awake even in the first week.
The second is what I call the second year variety. Most of them would have done a HC or HDMC course and would have observed that the other training institutions are more messed up and will find the interlude as a preparatory period for second leg.By this time they would have also mastered the art of imparting knowledge which is invariably more listening and less talking and steering a discussion.
In the third year the DSs or even the ex DSs are resistant to change. Some of them are in training team and few would have become ex DS and would want to cling on to old exercises as change involves tremendous effort.
As far as ex DSs are concerned, one should not even consult them. Some would have come back as SIs and many who returns as SIs would not have been great DSs.
There are aspects of staff college that requires change and there are those which do not require . Resistance starts when some one wants to bring in revolutionary changes than evolutionary. We have had many changes during Gen BV Nair's and Gen Thodge's time. They ensured that the change was brought in by DS body.
Institutions like DSSC requires neither megalomaniacs ( as few Commandants have been) or the upwardly mobile or laussezfaire variety. What is required is a man having a vision with an understanding approach. The DS body there are outstanding officers (may be aberrations do exist) and some of the SIs too can contribute."
"Some of the issues as mentioned in the book were always in existence since the time the college came into being or even before that in its previous form at Quetta. The college has been aware about the problem and college authorities have been continously trying to improve the content and curriculum over the years. Using PCK was a sacrillege and PCK scarce in the age before computers . Post automation and conversion of writing work to online submissions proliferation has been much higher. Aspects like TPE, reduction of objective content in AEs and changing exercises to hoodwink the student body has been time honoured practice. 'Kurukshetra' itself has seen many variants and 'Girisangram' has evolved over the years. Most aspects mentioned by the author in this book are reflections of Indian students too who have not done well in life.
Some of these aspects are exaggerated while some do merit attention.
PCKs use of PCKs or plagairism is a major problem not only for the DSSC but for the entire academic world. Such instances are rampant in other institutions too. While one may coax,cajole or threaten PCKs will resurface in some form or other. Getting PCK out of the system is neither desired nor essential.Some times it allows a student officer to obtain some guideline. It is the DS body who needs to understand and differentiate those who use PCKs or otherwise Grading Consciousness Doing well has been an Indian way of life. Indian officers who go to war and staff college do top courses there too. Indians today win spellbees, maths competitions , etc., in the world.
DSSC comprises of officers who have undergone a gruelling entrance exam and can be considered as the best the Army can provide except for few exceptions. Doing well in DSSC is essential for career progression is purely a myth and one will find that even those who have not done well have made it to higher ranks. The grading system was meant for MS branch to post officers based on recommendations of the staff college to various staff appointments. Doing well in staff college gave better exposures and better avenues and consequently career progression. The quantification system further complicated the problems. And as per the new quantification model staff college gradings have no relevance to the promotion to higher ranks. What best a good grading in DSSC could give was a posting back to Wellington. And the location itself would have lost its charm but for instructor allowance long back. In an age of CRs where one cannot differentiate between wheat and chaff let us at least have some criteria to differentiate.
Officious Instructor - Student Relationship. The relation I suppose has eased out in the later years. However there is a requirement to keep our private and official interaction distinct. However staff college gives an air of informality and some times stories of scandolus variety which are some times an anathema to Indian society. The strong regimentation we have invariably results in patronage and complicates our loyalties. Hence the officiousness while being out of class rooms yet maintain an informal teaching atmosphere in adult to adult communication model should be the norm. This requires a thought process change amongst DS body.
Outdated Syllabi For those who believe in Kipling , any thing a developed nation does is considered inferior to theirs and hence his understanding of warfare is based on their models of operations while ours has to be oriented towards ours. Here too DSSC has not done bad.
It is not just this author but many who have either not got a chance to be in Wellington or have not been a DS in Wellington has a perception that staff college is all about rote learning, PCK, or grading ,etc., .Many students have these notions and at the end of it most realise that it was not about any of these things.
Change is Constant and we Should. But continuity too is essential"
"Change is the essence of life. But so is continuity. While I do agree that any PME institution need to orient themselves towards contemporary and futuristic warfare and need to orient their structure towards it, the moot question is whether we should do it because of impressions carried by an officer who always assumed that their way of warfare and conduct of operations is superior to ours. The changes need to be internally driven.
I for one is of the firm opinion that the degeneration of Indian Army's military thought process commenced the day we started emulating the western models of doctrine and training methodologies. An ADGMT who later on went to become a Corps Commander and an Army Commander and his proteges in the military have brought in enough rot in the system by bringing in the western lexicons to our vocabulary.
Internal driven changes need to be constantly evaluated based on organizational felt needs and then incorporated into the syllabus. Additions should correspondingly be compensated by deletions in syllabii too. Most of the times changes are driven by whims and fancies of the Commandant and CIs with little inputs from the DS body or student feed back. I wonder as to how many have actually read the book by the American. And if not it is worth to read the book rather than excerpts. It is nothing alarming. What is more intresting is to compare the quetta papers with Wellington papers.
While I do agree that a study with a soft system view of the entire approach and method is worth while, CDM is not the organisation suited for it. They will do much better if they review theirs.
The change required is in thoughts and thought processes. It is a staff college problem. It is the military's problem. Originality in thought has never been a military man's forte and original military thinkers whether it is Byod, Billy Mitchell, Liddlehart, etc, immortalised themselves after they exited the military".
"Till the time we don't have instructors who are fully qualified, experienced and in-sync with the national academia and geo-politics, we will only be producing "Pink and White" officers.
Ask anyone in the DSSC to give out the organogram of Civil Administration and Judiciary of their district or State and you will have your answer to what I meant above".
(Views expressed are the respondent's own and do not reflect the editorial stance of Mission Victory India)