The war to win over youth

Army's predicament

The war to win over youth

The fact that not many youth today are keen on serving their country through the Defence forces was highlighted yet again when CBSE (Central Board of Secondary Education) instructed all its schools to introduce students to careers in the forces, recently.

The CBSE directed that students, both boys and girls, must be guided about avenues in the Armed Forces under the General Foundation Courses, as well as encouraged to visit the websites of all three branches - the Army, the Air Force and the Navy.

It is well-known that our Defence forces suffer from a considerable manpower crunch. As per a report over 11,000 posts are lying vacant. This is almost one-fourth of its total sanctioned strength. Of those serving, many end up taking voluntary retirement. But officials say that it is not a problem of quantity but quality plaguing the forces.

An official in the Army’s Press Information department informed Metrolife, “The difficulty is of substandard candidates. Not every meritorious Science student has the capability to be a good Army officer. For that you require discipline, dedication, humility and the capability to work in a team. These things are not taught in text-books. So invariably, thousands peter out at our various stages of examination.”

Anand Swaroop, principal, Air Force Bal Bharati School, Lodhi Road, says that many school kids and their parents are still averse to a job in the military due to its punishing lifestyle, frequent transfers and the risks involved.

However, things are looking up with the Sixth Pay Commission having raised the remunerations of officers considerably. “In the past two years alone, more of my students have given the National Defence Academy exam and cleared it. I guess the lure of private jobs is slightly less now as the government is offering better pay and benefits in the Forces too. Even girls are showing more interest now.”

Principal of another school for wards of Armymen, Mridula Pant of Army Public School, Dhaula Kuan, in fact, says that schools are more lacking in this aspect than students, “I have noticed that many youngsters clear the written exam stage but fail at the SSB level which involves psychological tests, interviews and group tasks.

That’s because it requires grooming right from nursery level. Schools today are only focusing on churning out software professionals, engineers and doctors. We find it difficult to understand that we have to prepare the next generation of Army personnel as well.”

A young Army officer Metrolife spoke to agreed that in our race to manufacture only money-minting professionals, we are forgetting to instill values in youngsters which are needed when you get into a profession like the Armed Forces. “Forget about work ethos and human values, I feel even physical fitness is given a miss in our constant endeavour to produce market-oriented individuals,” he said, requesting anonymity.

Educationists say that our institutions of primary learning must make corrections in their outlook as well as the curriculum to aid one of the most crucial institutions of our country – the Army.

Former CBSE chairman Ashok Kumar Ganguly says, “I remember during my school days, which is nothing less than 40 years back, we had a subject called Defence Studies. During my time in CBSE, we also considered a compulsory stay at Army camps for class X passouts to be able to qualify for senior secondary education. Unfortunately, it couldn’t materialise.”

“However, schools must consider these steps now that the Defence forces are themselves pointing to a lacunae and requesting help.”    

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