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Modernisation of the training provided for conscripts will ensure credible defence
Training 2020 Contributing to the Reserve Officer Course

Army Academy 1.7.2019 16.27
News item
Reserviupseerikoulun varusmiehiä harjoituksessa rivissä.

The reserve officer training provided by the Army is being reformed as a part of the Training 2020 Programme. The work for modernising the course started in the Reserve Officer School in spring 2018. The first single experiments were piloted in winter 2018-2019 on Reserve Officer Course 253. The ongoing Reserve Officer Course 254 is impacted by the reform the strongest, because the training in its new form is now being piloted.

Even if we do well today, training has to keep up with time and be updated, so that we can be strong in the future as well.

Finland’s defence solution is founded on general conscription. Conscription has long traditions in Finnish society. It is highly appreciated by the people, and it ensures the production of the know-how and the forces with high operational capabilities required for Finland’s military defence.

A modern, attractive and efficient training system constitutes the foundation of effective conscription. An efficient training system is the only means of achieving the capability requirements that have been set.

Ihmisiä luokassa seuraamassa kouluttajan opetusta panssarivaunuista.

The Training 2020 Programme is a comprehensive educational reform which comprises a great deal of piloting and experiments. The reform is highly visible in the modernisation of the training provided for conscripts, but it will also contribute wide-scale to all of the training conducted by the Defence Forces. The contents of the training are being developed with the aim of being able to respond to changes in the operational environment. Possibilities provided by digitalisation are integrated into the instruction, teaching methods are modernised, so that they will correspond to the students’ changed sets of skills and expectations. Cost-effective and sustainable solutions are sought for developing instruction long term. For example, the use of simulation, online learning, increasingly efficient use of digitalisation and comprehensive capability training are at the fore of the reform.

Modernisation of the Reserve Officer Course provides direction for leadership training

The conscripts’ feedback before mustering out keeps showing that the reserve officer training is high quality. According to this survey, the areas that need to be worked on are the quality and contents of leadership training. This survey also showcases the main strength of the reserve officer training- it is highly appreciated by the officer candidates. Even if we do well today, training has to keep up with time and be updated, so that we can be strong in the future as well.

The leadership training provided for conscripts will not be geared toward academic skills. Instead, learning by doing has been the central theme in the work done to improve their training.

The reserve officer training provided by the Army is being reformed as a part of the Training 2020 Programme. The work for modernising the course started in the Reserve Officer School in spring 2018. The first single experiments were piloted in winter 2018-2019 on Reserve Officer Course 253. The ongoing Reserve Officer Course 254 is impacted by the reform the strongest, because the training in its new form is now being piloted. The Reserve Officer School plays a major role in conscripts’ leadership and instructor training as a national actor, so significant piloting responsibilities involving leadership training have been assigned to the School.

The Army reserve officer training will be built into an upwards-trend package bound to produce highly competent, capable leaders motivated to learn for the needs of brigade-level units and to be placed in their planned wartime troop position. It will also provide the trainees with a uniform and sustainable understanding of their respective branch, the Finnish defence system and the total defence model of operation.

The nine areas for developing the Reserve Officer Course are:

  1. Structure
  2. Comprehensive capability training
  3. Exercises
  4. Teaching methods
  5. Leadership training
  6. Instructor training
  7. E-learning
  8. Simulation and virtual learning environments
  9. Assessment and feedback.

A number of bigger and smaller experiments will be implemented in each of these development areas for the achievement of the goals of the Training 2020 Programme. The development work will undergo continuous assessment. Furthermore, the Army Command and the Reserve Officer School have instructors and students participate in feedback surveys, which also contributes to assessment.

Joukkueen johtaja johtaa joukkuettaan maastossa.

Digitalisation will be developed into an even better tool; it is, by no means, an end in itself.

The leadership training provided for conscripts will not be geared toward academic skills. Instead, learning by doing has been the central theme in the work done to improve their training. Digitalisation will be developed into an even better tool; it could, by no means, be an end in itself. Developing teaching methods will result in reducing the portion of traditional class-room education. The goal is to place more focus on actual leadership skills needed in the battlefield.

Results are encouraging – but there is more work to be done

The structure of the Reserve Officer Course is based on course entities and modules, so it is possible to examine experiences gained while the course is still in progress. The Reserve Officer Course consists of five courses including:

The strides taken in digitalisation have been too big; it is only natural that some sub-areas do not work that well yet.

  • Orientation (1 credit)
  • Leadership in the Branch (6 credits)
  • Advanced Studies (7 credits)
  • Instructor Course (1 credit)
  • Reflection (1 credit)

A survey at the end of the Orientation Course in May 2019 showed that the development work was heading in the right direction. Having the students adopt the attitudes and values appropriate for a reserve officer was the primary goal of the Orientation Course. One of the reasons why the students appreciated the course was that it was a package of entities well put together.

The new teaching methods have been welcomed with enthusiasm. The teaching methods modernisation translates into appreciation and motivation by the students in particular. The updated teaching methods make it possible for instructors and trainees to cooperate more closely in an atmosphere of confidence. This translates into high mutual respect.

Varusmiehiä urheilemassa kasarmin pihalla.

The feedback survey also revealed that the capability training, especially the "Soldier’s body" entities were considered worthwhile. However, a small number of respondents thought the exercises were too straining and one-sided. This problem is being taken care of on the course in progress.

A significant increase in the use of the PVMoodle online learning environment posed a challenge to the network, the PVMoodle system itself and the instructors. The strides taken in digitalisation have been too big; it is only natural that some of the sub-areas do not work that well yet. All in all, the use of the online learning environment was taken as a positive development step. We are still learning how to use external information screens.

Instructor feedback revealed their concern regarding the ability of students with varying performance levels to learn the things taught. Students with learning disabilities will continue to need support for achieving the learning objectives.

Varusmies taisteluvarustuksessa seuraa kouluttajan opetusta.

The first weeks of the Leadership in the Branch Course implemented after the Orientation Course showed that the development work involving exercises in particular was well under way. Developing exercises comes under the main theme of moving on "from training troops to training leaders". This entity shifts instruction toward developing more individualised leadership training. The results are encouraging and give a reason to expect that the students who complete it will be more autonomous and understand the battlefield even better than before.

Standardisation promotes competence

Successfull piloting always leads to the right and appropriate conclusions and development proposals. Working towards conclusions also involves assessing why some individual experiments were successful and integrating the lessons learned into use.

Finland’s defence is founded on competent and capable reservist leaders.

The ongoing experiments will be carefully assessed in autumn 2019 and the best practices will be standardised across the entire course. Careful documentation enables the dissemination of what has been learned for the benefit of the entire Defence Forces.

Reserve officer training provides skills for combat and equips one for life. The reform of leadership training is only just beginning. Carefully carried out, it will provide an even better foundation for producing forces with high operational capabilities for Finland’s defence. Finland’s defence is founded on competent and capable reservist leaders.

Kolme sotilassta seuraa koulutusta metsämaastossa.