PME Resources

Does Army Need Better Educated Soldiers?

By Claire Von Wald May 15, 2019

Click here to quickly download 'Does Army Need Better Educated Soldiers?'.

HQ FORCOMD is continuing with the work required to re-energise Professional Military Education (or 'PME') in response to the Australian Army's 2016 Ryan Review. In particular, the PME Cell is working hard to develop a future strategy for PME in Army.

In order for this strategy to be done right, the PME Cell needs your views.  So, they are publishing a series of 'PME Investigation Papers'.  Their research team are diving deep into facets of the profession of arms, casting a wide net for influences and opinions that will better prepare Army for the future.

The first paper looked at 'The Development of Professionals', and the second at 'National Styles of Professional Military Education'The Cove is proud to present the third of these papers.  In her article entitled 'Does Army Need Better Educated Soldiers?', Claire Von Wald investigates what Army will need from its soldiers in the future, and how important education is in meeting that need.

She looks at the future operating environment, and the effects it will have on the intellectual skills and knowledge required by our soldiers. She then outlines what Army can do to develop soldiers who meet these enhanced requirements.

Do you agree that Australian Army soldiers will need better education in the future? What ideas do you have for delivering this education?

The PME Strategy will have implications across Army, so we would also love to hear what else you think we should investigate. We have an unrivalled, connected capacity to 'crowdsource' the future ... so use your voice and hit 'contribute'.



Claire Von Wald

Claire Von Wald is a researcher who served for 27 years in the Australian Army. She is currently working towards a doctorate in Public Leadership at the University of New South Wales. 

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of the Australian Army, the Department of Defence or the Australian Government.


Interesting article and interesting question. In the case of medics, I would say the answer is absolutely. Their job entails a unique blend of 'doing' and thinking, requiring judgement and experience to guide decisions in uncertain circumstances. In the civilian health care sector paramedics require a degree as the entry level quaIfication with a graduate year of supervised practice prior to independent practice. Further study is then required in order to start making primary health care decisions. In this respect Army is lagging well behind the industry standard.

I am a current serving soldier (medic) who has been involved in the ADFA postgraduate scheme and ATEP, as well as having been a career manager at DSCM-A. I disagree with the premise that these programs are an 'investment' for ORs. JOPES (now ATEP) and DOCM-A policies of officer career management do invest in officers and have clear and linked outcomes for the individual participating in the education. Investment definition has defined outcomes/profit from the outlay of time/effort/money. There are no clear defined outcomes for ORs from these programs and they are not linked to career outcomes defined in MAE, DSCM-A policies, promotion requirements, promotion merit etc. The ADFA postgraduate scheme and ATEP is not actively encouraged by DSCM-A career managers and participants are not given extra merit. Thus the 'organisation' does not measure or actively encourage/reward participants of these voluntary schemes - thus I do not see this as an organisation investment. I have been an instructor of both ORs and officers; the splitting within the article of thinking and decision making is of concern. Critical thinking is a concept that I believe should be more apt for analysis/discussion rather than splitting thinking and decision making. I've seen the outcome of initial officer training to be officers who do not use critical thinking but are mission focused at the cost to resources, manning, morale, the strategic picture/aim and at times even common sense. My experience is that JNCOs and SNCOs often are better critical thinkers than junior officers; this may be partially due to experience and involvement in negative group outcomes more than individual training or education. I believe that the ADF is not truly a 'learning organisation', the two above points highlighting a few ways it is not. Another is the misaligned outomes of language training for ORs not having career merit and many aspects can have career negatives. I'm encouraged by education and training programs like ADFA postgraduate scheme, ATEP and language training for ORs but there is more to do to be comparable to other modern organisations throughout the world that are considered to be a 'learning organisation'. Products like the cove and smart soldier are positive products/means/tools including the means of communicating ideas like Forcenet but the engagement and outcomes need better focus/recording/rewards. I believe today's modern soldier needs strategic awareness rather then strategic education; I believe this could be delivered/trained within the ADF within current competency based training rather than at a tertiary level. I believe for ORs that strategic awareness and critical thinking can be delivered/trained alongside training on MAP at schools within the OR training continuum and similar should be done for officers. ASLO is one such school that has tried to initiate the concept of critical thinking within its organisation but a whole of trade/career continuum analysis is required as has been done with levels of MAP e.g. CMAP on JLC

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