While commanding the Regiment, I tasked our young officers to draft a letter in reply to a query from the higher Headquarters on deployment of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (Drones.) After two days I asked them about the status of the draft and one of them said “Sir, why don’t you please write it as you write much better than all of us.” I did not like it a wee bit, but my usual response I curtailed and I analysed the reason with them. I explained to them:-
“We all came through the Services Selection Board (SSB) where we were shown nine caricature images of which one could not make head and tail of. We all wrote nine convincing stories. The tenth was a blank and still we wrote a story. We were flashed a hundred words at the rate of two words every minute and were all wrote a hundred sentences. Had what we wrote not make sense or was not creative enough, none of us would be here. Where did we lose all those critical thinking, analytical power and creative thinking?”
A case study I projected to them. It was about a section capturing two militants in a hideout by an infantry section. The situation was posed to ten Gentleman Cadets (GC), ten Young Officers (YO) Course qualified officers, ten Junior Command (JC) Course qualified officers and ten Staff College qualified officers.
Ten GCs will come out with nine solutions of which eight will work. Ten YOs will come out with seven solutions of which five will work. Ten JC officers will come out with five solutions of which three will work. Ten Staff College qualified will come out with one solution which is sure to fail at its very first step.
It’s all because of the over structured training in the Army at various stages with the level of structuring increasing up the hierarchy.
It all commenced from the very first document most of us as YOs in our regiments would have created – a Court of Inquiry mostly to regularise an injury suffered by a soldier while playing. The task would be given by the Adjutant with a caveat “Refer to a previous Court of Inquiry and do the needful.” From there commences the procedure of looking back and copying forward.
A decade ago, a friend, a Brigadier at DSSC was tasked to suggest methodology to make tactical exercises more creative. My suggestion was based on the education here in Canada for Gifted Children who form 2% of students. Gifted Children unusually possess advanced degree of general intellectual ability that requires differentiated learning experiences of a depth and breadth beyond those normally provided. They are usually segregated at Grade 4 based on a written examination.
Gifted Children Programme is a carefully designed the self-contained program to meet the needs, characteristics and interests of gifted students. Self-contained classes for gifted students offer a space where the child can relate to their intellectual peer group.
The programme is run by teachers who have additional qualification for such special education. It aims to provide:
- Learning content more relevant to their interests and abilities than in a regular class.
- The opportunity to work with and learn from other children with similar or higher intellectual aptitude.
- The ability to work with like-minded peers who also have creative and complex ways of thinking.
- The ability to relate with others who have similar interests.
It was mutually agreed that the Gifted Children situation is similar to the student officers at DSSC. Based on the experience I gained working with both our children who were in Gifted Children programme, I suggested that for one tactical exercise let the students be given a blank map sheet with minimum inputs regarding force level, weapons, logistics etc and let the students commence by marking the International Boundary onward and create an exercise and also a solution. Here no ‘pinks’ will come handy as every time only the map sheet is changed and there is no pre-made solution. The instructors will have to work overtime to correct and assess each solution and one or two among all the exercises may be conducted for the course.
The idea was presented to the DSSC Commandant who asked the Brigadier to present the same to the entire faculty. At the end of the presentation, senior faculty members came out with a question “How will we assess the students?”
The ‘baby’ was thrown out of the window – with the bath, loofah and soap. It appeared that the aim of all military training is to assess and not to teach.