Relevance of Sainik Schools in India

The Maharashtra State Government has recently ordered a “high-level” committee to review the present status of Sainik Schools and collect data of alumni who have joined the Armed Forces. Begging the question: Are Sainik Schools meeting their intended purpose?

Relevance of Sainik Schools in India

Background & Trigger

A recent article by Lt Gen PC Katoch, published in Indian Defence Review, 29 Oct, 2018 was  a piece on the relevance of our Sainik Schools (with the focus on the privately run schools in Maharashtra). Were these schools actually fulfilling the role they were designed for? The quality of product of  Sainik Schools impacts in some measure to the intake standards in our military academies, especially NDA, and also subsequently affects in some way to the level of our future military leadership.

Hence, it is necessary to review the present relevance of these schools and suggest changes and improvements in running these schools with a view to improve the quality of our future military leadership. A few extracts from Gen Katoch’s article are given below with a view to start the debate, leading to findings, conclusions and the way forward. The full article can also be read clicking on this link.

"The Maharashtra State Government has recently ordered a “high-level” committee to review the present status of Sainik Schools and collect data of alumni who have joined the Armed Forces. “The main task before the committee was to examine if the purpose for which the schools (read Sainik Schools) have been set up has been served or not”.

“The need for the committee has been reportedly felt because with 42 Sainik Schools spread over the state to groom youth to join the Armed Forces, today no specific data is available on number of students who join the military after passing out from such institutions.

One wonders how will this committee deal with the multiple aspects related to the task allotted to it, what will be its recommendation, and what will be the follow up decision by the Maharashtra State Government, and whether it will  result in closure of the Sainik Schools.”

“In December 2017 the RM informed Parliament that Armed Forces were short of 58,602 personnel; Army 27,864 personnel, Navy 16,235 (24% of authorized strength) and Air Force 15,503 (10% of authorized strength)"

“In addition, Army was short of 7,679 officers against 49,932 (shortage of 15.38%); bringing the overall Army shortages including officers to 35,543.”

“But before issuing such orders, hopefully the powers that be will have the sense to realize that while joining Armed Forces is supposedly the sole objective in their perception, an equally important corollary to that is imbibing discipline and sense of nationalism in the children, which needs little elaboration going by the daily news in print and electronic media.

This is why there are periodic calls for ‘compulsory military service’, even as it is impractical given the numbers involved. This is even more important in face of unchecked population growth and corresponding rise in unemployment.”

“Sainik Schools are a system of schools established and managed by the Sainik Schools Society under the MoD. Presently, there are 26 such schools covering all the states of the country coming under the purview of respective state governments and MoD.

These include Sainik School, Satara in Maharashtra. Where 42 Sainik Schools get mentioned within Maharashtra State, balance obviously are initiative at state-level; adjunct to the 26 spread over India, established and managed by the Sainik Schools Society under the MoD.

Whether most students end up joining Armed Forces should not be the only issue. If these schools imbibe discipline in the youth, motivate them physically and mentally to aim high and partner in the growth of India as good citizens, they would have achieved much more. The decision of course rests with the Maharashtra Government.”

Responses from Veterans

Col Pradeep Dalvi (Retd), ex-SS Bijapur

Purpose: The Main purpose of Sainik Schools (SS) in the country is to create readymade pipeline for the NDA and other institutions that train officer cadets  for the Armed Forces. Off late this very purpose has been difficult to achieve as the number of cadets from SS and Military school (MS) have fallen below 10% in the NDA.

Over the past 20 years many SS and MS have mushroomed in various states which are partially aided by the state govt, case in point is  state of Maharashtra where MS (Raigarh Military school) and SS have been set up by various private and NGOs/trusts to provide quality education and to train students to join Armed forces.

Most of these education institutions have been raised by politicians  and various trusts  so that they can  avail benefits of GOM’s aid at the same time collect  large amount of tuition  fees from gullible parents. Their record in providing students to join armed forces is very poor or almost negligible.

Therefore: Sainik schools in each district is neither desirable nor practical and  there will be hardly any intake from such institutions for the Armed Forces.

Private institutions are still free to send children to armed forces as  any 12th standard pass candidate can appear for UPSC and follow the procedure.

Letting private parties to open sainik schools and military schools are a big losing proposition and should be stopped immediately by respective state govts including recognition and aid.

Girls should be considered now since women are already part of the armed forces, the state may decide if they want co-ed or separate school for girls like in Karnataka (Kittur SS).

Schools should be in concurrent list with standards being set by the centre and the resources to be provided by the states. Now with GST payback to state exchequer this should not be a problem. The ministry of human resources could set up funds aside for sainik schools as on the lines of Navodaya schools and the entire process should be stream lined.

Armed forces are not lucrative career is a reality, so only those with spirit of adventure and family lineage would probably join the forces. Rest of them would join SS and MS  for good quality of education and go out and pursue other careers like IAS, corporate and IT etc.

The statement of Gen Malik should be read with this perspective in view. As stated earlier, the aim of these schools should be more broad based to include para military forces, IPS, State Police Cadre and also other armed professions.

The SS and MS should be considered as nunnery for good citizens rather than factories for soldiers, sailors and airmen and therefore would require a large scale attitudinal change.

All SS and MS should conduct due diligence of their students in last 10 Years and their careers after passing out from school in all streams including Armed forces, pvt, Govt, business and corporate streams and carry out analyses of their contribution to the society.  

Lastly, in my opinion maximum two schools (call them sainik or military) per state is more than enough, and additional schools will only dilute standards.
The fact that armed forces to be made more lucrative and a preferred career is a call that the center will have to take.

If the intake standards in the forces deteriorate, the quality of officers will suffer, commitment will be limited, integrity will be questionable. In coming times the compulsory military service may have to be resorted to if adequate force levels have to be maintained to counter external threats and ever growing internal commitments.

Cdr Mukund Yeolekar (Retd), ex-SS Bijapur

(a) True, there has been a proliferation of Sainik Schools and Private Military Schools in the country. Assuming that the training in these schools is perfect and the cadets are well motivated all of them cannot join the NDA/INA/MCEME/CME/MCTE etc. The intake requirement each year in the Academies is much less than the number of students passing out from the Sainik Schools.

(b) The aim of these schools is to prepare students for a military background. They become physically fit, disciplined  and academically well above average. They also develop a patriotic spirit and military ethos.

(c) If they do not qualify for NDA/INA after class XII they could do graduation and join as Direct Entry Officers or take  Short service Commission.

(d) Another option would be to join Para Military Forces (PMF) like BSF, SSB, Territorial Army or Indian Coast Guard which are also challenging careers. Many have taken this option. Even joining the Merchant Marine is a good option.

(e) If they do not join or are unable to join the Armed Forces they are still a great asset to the nation as a  captive resource of trained and disciplined man power. They do very well in civil life and the training in Sainik school does not go waste.

Therefore I think that the Sainik Schools should continue with their good quality of training and encourage the students to be disciplined and responsible citizens. The nation does require disciplined and responsible Civilians. If some of them are not inclined to join the Armed Forces it is due to the prevailing Socio-economic situation in the country for which they cannot be held entirely responsible.

Cdr Ravindra Pathak (Retd), ex-SS Satara

As far as I know  and being from a Sainik School myself I am aware of ground realities at least in Maharashtra. All schools named as Military Schools are not run by the Government. The only schools that are funded by the GOI are Sainik Schools/RIMC and King George schools.

What private parties do is not the concern of veterans. They use the term military to attract students. The Bhonsala Military School was started by RSS as a feeder for IMA. I am not sure if there is a need to have two Sainik schools per state.

Maharashtra is bidding for second school at Chandrapur. This 2 per state  concept needs to be tested against strength of contribution from states to the armed forces. Also there is a need to leave the private schools to fend for themselves and as far as Sainik Schools/RIMC/KG schools are concerned I feel there is a need to do a complete analysis of need and the strength contributed to armed forces to decide either a addl school or closing down

Brig IS Gakhal (Retd), ex-Bishop’s School, Pune

On 28 Oct I chanced to visit SS Kunjpura, took a detailed round of the premises and had tea with the principal (Col of the AEC). What I saw did not impress me one bit. The buildings looked run down, the hostels poorly maintained and clothes on the clothes line on evidence everywhere told a rundown story.

But more disappoint followed when we had tea with the Principal. Physically unimpressive, his demeanor submissive and apologetic. Certainly not a personality who can motivate or be a role model for young students. Here lies the flaw. Posting serving officers as Principal purely on their academic record can be very dangerous.

I have been on the management board of SS Kapurthala which use to sent 15-17 cadets in each course, it barely manages three in a year now. The dynamics have changed, the sainik schools education vis a vis private schools is no longer cheap for civilian parents.

There is a qualitative drop in teacher quality, and student intake. More than anything else the motivational aspects are lacking. On the infrastructure side the Centre-State dual responsibility ensure that funds never flow smoothly.

The states feel it’s an avoidable expenditure. Only lip service is paid, results in rundown buildings, poor infrastructure and poor product. Rather than proliferate more SS/MS lets first upgrade the existing one, improve their quality of educational grooming and output. The concept was good but it hasn’t kept pace with time and is struggling for want of resuscitation.

(Views expressed are the respondents own, and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Mission Victory India)

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