Lieutenant General Malik Arif Hayat (Retired)
Command and Staff College is an Institution committed to excellence. Achieving this has been a century of consistent and diligent work of an excellent, dedicated and a very professional faculty, along with an equally committed supporting staff. The challenge for any Commandant of this Institution is not only to ensure that C&SC retains its high standards and continues to foster the culture of ‘commitment to excellence’ but to also ensure that the College remains sensitive to the needs of our future leaders. This demands that the College remains on the path of constant change and adaptation, constantly reviewing the curriculum to ensure it remains dynamic and compatible to the changes in the profession and that it prepares our graduates for tomorrow’s more dynamic and more complex challenges. Hence for the C&SC, the ‘future is always now’. As the 41st Commandant of the College, my tenure was involved with ensuring that the College’s teaching-learning environment grow and expand to meet the future needs of the Army, especially in this rapidly changing environment of the prevailing information age.
The reach and penetration of the information age touches all societies and militaries. The College has an obligation to its graduates and the Army, to expand the professional knowledge, closing the gap between the knowledge and expected performance and prepare the future leadership for the challenges ahead through rigorous education that focuses on their intellectual development.
In order to meet such a challenge, it had taken a decision to induct IT for effecting an order of magnitude changes and transform the teaching-learning environment, to meet the future needs of the graduates. The tools provided by IT suddenly made available an unprecedented opportunity.
My year at the C&SC, as the Commandant, was primarily spent at aligning technology to the curriculum and curriculum-support activities; identifying the new teaching-learning objectives and drawing up a road-map of transformation of the College.
IT and Delivery of Education
The implementation team, headed by the Chief Instructor, Brigadier Azhar Ali Shah, had the key challenge, to first sketch out, how the delivery of knowledge and education at the College would transform with the induction of IT. Their start point was the conviction that IT must never be embedded in the existing method of delivering education if we were to leverage the opportunities available and that the ‘more of the same’ approach would be wasteful in resources and technology.
Transformation and Curriculum Changes
It was visualized that a phased approach to transformation must be taken so that there is continuity as well as change, building upon the excellent prevailing teaching environment. Some aspects of transformation were:-
- Non-resident Leg of Staff Course. With connectivity and tools of information technology, barriers of geography and location were no longer relevant. The opportunity was opened up to actively integrate, what was a very informal one year of “Pre-Staff College” preparation assignments into a regular integrated Non--resident Course.
- Tutorials. Subjects for tutorial discussions were looked at and reformatted to exploit the opportunities now available through the use of the IT. Students now had access to not only College Basic Books and the General Staff Publications but to other relevant Army publications, all digitized and in a searchable format. In addition, they could supplement their study assignments with relevant content from the Internet. This change was of immense value in opening up the discussion, energizing it and involving every participant. Every member of the syndicate had read from different texts, besides the College Basic Books, which remained the primary sources. There was real sharing of knowledge, since everyone contributed and was encouraged to form an opinion or take a position. The benefits of small group education were taken to new levels through the use of technology and there was a visible cross-pollination of ideas.
- College Research Assignment as Part of an Elective Programme. Research had degenerated into an activity that was given least attention by students and consequently, was only encouraging plagiarism rather than being an exciting or inspirational learning activity and a main driver for intellectual pursuit. The primary cause being that students had no choice with regard to the subject of research; besides, the non-military subjects were too broad in scope hence not prone to any real research, which essentially is narrow and deep in focus. Similarly, the military subjects had no relevance to the previous knowledge of the researcher. There was a need to get the student involved by letting him identify his specific area of educational interest by allowing him to choose military and non-military subjects for study and research. Some of the steps that were taken in this regard were:¬
- Electives Semester. The terms were grouped into semesters and the content packaged accordingly. The first three terms were devoted to providing foundation level education and advanced professional studies. The fourth term was devoted to elective studies where the students exercised their choice of subjects based on their professional knowledge and interest. Method of delivery in this semester was mainly self study, research and tutorial discussions, besides presenting their papers.
- Students were to be mentored by a non-resident faculty for subjects that were not specifically military. During the electives semester, the non-resident faculty members were planned to be invited to the College to hold seminars/tutorials with their respective study groups.
- Masters Degree Programme. In order to meet the growing intellectual needs of the future leaders, encourage the culture of being pro-active in education and deciding for themselves about their learning objectives, the College with the assistance of Balochistan University, approved a Masters Degree Programme for officers.
- Some of the Curriculum Support Activities that were changed to suit the new environment at the College were:
- Class Schedule and Curriculum Management. The class schedule was converted to hours from the normal division in ‘periods.’ This not only was in conformity with the current trends being followed in Colleges and universities elsewhere, but also enabled better curriculum analysis, economical time allocation and creating balance in the subjects.
- Programmed Time for Classes. Along with the change of class schedule, the College time was also changed to be from 8 am to 4:30 pm. It enabled programming up to seven to eight hour activities besides fostering a culture of completing work in assigned time and inculcating a habit to budget time for competing requirements and not allowing ‘work to spread to time available.’
- Increasing Written Assignments. In order to introduce students to this changed and a pleasurable way of writing papers, the word processing assignments were increased and made more varied in topics and subjects. Students were encouraged to focus on the intellectual aspects of logical organization of facts and taking positions based on their arguments.
Overall, the induction of IT was the opportunity to commence the transformation of the College. Transformation is a continuous process and does not have a fixed end-state. Change is perpetual and the teaching-learning environment must also change with it to leverage the benefits and to deliver education in the most effective manner.
This was a very rewarding experience and one that was intellectually challenging. The College with the use of IT has the capacity and capability to build on the initial phase of technology enabled transformation to consider other options of delivering education more efficiently and effectively. With the tools of IT, The College can reach out to students at different locations to offer Non-resident staff course as a part of distance learning (DL) initiative. Command and Staff College is now on the technology highway that follows a rapid and upward spiral.