Colombian War College: The Path of Military Excellence
By Dialogo October 13, 2010
At the War College (ESDEGUE), high-ranking officers of the armed forces are educated and trained as well-rounded commanders, leaders, and strategists, experts in planning and conducting joint operations, and advisers on security and national defense. At the same time, the College contributes to the creation of a culture of national security and national defense among ordinary citizens.
The College was founded on 1 May 1909 by Decree 453, issued by Colombian President Gen. Rafael Reyes Prieto, who was the moving force behind the professionalization of Colombian military officers. The first director, Chilean Army Maj. Pedro Charpin, led the effort to promote the education of the officer corps destined to serve on the General Staff and in the War Ministry and, especially, of those officers dedicated to serving as military instructors.
The College continued to be led by a Chilean until the beginning of 1912. The first director of Colombian origin was Col. Alejandro Posada; subsequently, four military missions from Switzerland, Germany, France, and America contributed their doctrine and experience to the enrichment of national military instruction.
In 1937, passing the General Staff Course was established as a requirement for promotion to the rank of lieutenant colonel. Soon after, in 1942, the first course for Air Force officers was introduced; in 1948, a Special Course for Marine Officers and Aviators was instituted; and in 1959, the Course in Advanced Military Studies (Curso de Altos Estudios Militares, CAEM) was set up for promotion to brigadier general and rear admiral. Subsequently, in 1960, it was ordered that the General Staff Course be held jointly, thereby bringing together officers from the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force; and in 1968, the Military Information Course (Curso de Información Militar, CIM) was established for the purpose of training officers of the Administrative Corps to serve effectively as members of the General Staff in the technical aspects of their specialties.
In the interest of opening the national-security and defense academy to diverse state sectors, in 1969 the National Defense Information Course (Curso de Información de Defensa Nacional, CIDENAL) was created, attended by high-ranking government officials and members of the private sector and by National Police colonels soon to be promoted to brigadier general.
It should be highlighted that in 2008 the College achieved certification of all its processes according to ISO 9001 and NTC GP 1000 standards, consolidating its position as the top-ranking military higher-education institution in the country.
Today the College, continuing its evolution, offers among its academic programs master’s and specialist’s degrees in security and national defense and a specialist’s degree in command and general-staff studies.
What does the educational mission advanced by the War College consist of?
The War College’s educational mission, articulated with the General Education Act (Law 115 of 1994) and the Higher-Education Organizational Act (Law 30 of 1992) and by its nature with the executive decree that regulates the career paths of military officers and non-commissioned officers (Decree-Law 1790 of 2000), is above all a social project framed by the relationships, interests, and participation of the educational community; its administrative, pedagogical, research, and extension and social-projection dimensions have been considered from this perspective, as has its management as a whole, at the same time that it has its own institutional dynamic, without ignoring the reality and the environment with which it interacts.
The mission involves not only the College’s legal and pedagogical foundations, but also its philosophical, epistemological, social, psychological, and administrative ones, which enable it to adopt an educational framework that enables the education of the whole person. As a consequence, an educational system has been developed in order that the student be educated and trained on the basis of solid ethical and moral foundations, in respect for human dignity, in principles and values, in strengthening internal and external leadership ability, in a deep knowledge of the art and nature of war, military doctrine, planning, decision-making, and the conduct of military operations, and in effective interaction with society. For this reason, the War College has determined that its center of gravity is its students.
Also, education is approached as learning to learn, understood as a process of permanent reconstruction of personal and shared experience that opens the way to new experiences that enrich the present, a process viewed from the perspective of a constructivist pedagogical model that emphasizes meaningful learning. In other words, high priority is given to the development of critical thinking for the construction of scientific scenarios. Finally, education in caring for and preserving the environment is something that receives special attention in the War College’s educational mission.
What is the impact of the curricular design proposed by the institution?
The institution has responded to the nation’s demand for commitment to security and defense issues, for which reason it today offers among its academic programs master’s and specialist’s degrees in security and national defense, a specialist’s degree in command and general-staff studies, and the promotion courses for high-ranking military officers soon to be promoted to the ranks of brigadier general or rear admiral and lieutenant colonel or frigate captain, with the respective Advanced Military Studies, General Staff, and Military Information Courses.
At the same time, expanding its academic offerings in the area of non-degree education, it offers comprehensive and introductory courses on national defense, directed toward professionals in various fields who are committed to the nation’s future, and the Military Attachés Course, intended for colonels and ship captains soon to serve as defense, military, naval, and air-force attachés in a variety of countries around the world.
Additionally, and for the purpose of providing depth to its academic programs and supporting the development of research projects, the War College pursues institutional relationships with various national and international academic bodies and institutions, to enable the signing of agreements and the development of joint research and exchanges of professors and students.
For its part, the College’s educational mission calls for the academic cooperation of the various state bodies, the academic sector, and other domestic and foreign military institutions, for the purpose of assisting in the construction of a military higher education that is reflective, open, creative, analytical, and research-oriented, in order to achieve a well-rounded education and build the ideal member of the Colombian military: “A well-rounded human being, respectful of the Constitution and the laws of the Republic, a competent professional soldier, knowledgeable in the military arts and sciences, a leader, a commander, and an effective manager, a special kind of public servant, who guarantees the security and defense of society, the nation, and its republican institutions.”
What is the curricular structure used at the College?
The curriculum is structured through a coherent set of training modules that correspond to the competencies appropriate to the objectives of each specific program and make it possible for students to meet the desired exit criteria, all this within the framework of four large educational areas: Ethics and Humanities; Science, Technology, Communication, and Society; Command and Leadership; and Strategy, Tactics, and Logistics.
How many students pursue academic programs at the War College?
This year, the War College is delivering its educational and training programs to more than 525 high-ranking officers, including invited students from the republics of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico, and Peru. Alongside military education, the College offers graduate and extension programs in the area of security and national defense, directed toward professionals and students in various areas of knowledge, with 160 students. In total, there are 685 students in 2010.
What is the War College’s public profile?
The War College has drawn up a Development Plan for the next four years (2010-2014) focused on strengthening the internationalization of military higher education and in the same way, doctrine and joint operations, along with joint integrated action, with the purpose of promoting the institution’s public profile as a center of strategic thinking at the highest level on issues related to defense and national security. As a consequence, the College’s task is to try to strengthen its academic programs at the specialist’s-degree and master’s-degree levels.
At the same time, and obeying the demands of contemporary needs and the international community, the College will create an on-line specialist’s degree related to security and national defense. At present, the College is moving forward on the process of implementing a new master’s degree in human rights and the international law of armed conflicts.
Along these lines set out in the Development Plan, the College is directing its efforts toward strengthening its institutional positioning, accrediting all its academic programs and recertifying all its processes, and expanding the coverage of its agreements with defense colleges and academic institutions on the national and international levels.
Likewise, there is a public aspect to the area of research on security and national defense. In this regard, it is important to highlight the development of the Integrated Research System, which articulates the efforts of all the members of the academic community in order to generate high-quality research products on security and defense topics.
Another prominent aspect is the College’s training of students in human rights and international humanitarian law, for the purpose that they become promoters of human rights themselves, a process in itself that will be accompanied by benefit programs intended to promote a sense of belonging among the College’s human resources.
The growing challenge is to lead the development of a vanguard educational mission and the new educational trends of internationalization and high academic quality and the search for maximum educational quality, in order to educate and train leaders in strategic thinking who will leave the College as high-ranking officers meeting the highest standards of excellence.