Military profession can be considered as one of the oldest professions in the world. It had been a feature of societies throughout history where certain groups of people were entrusted with the responsibility of defending the state. The military profession today however, differs in many aspects from the military of the late eighteenth century in the sense that recruitment is based on education and skill rather than on the basis of social origins. Military men today work on a full-time basis instead of regarding military service as a part-time vocation or hobby.
All professions are expected to maintain a certain level of competency and will be reprimanded or reject outright if they do not measure up to the required professional standards. The military profession must maintain high standards of performance in the eyes of the general public in order to hold its credibility and professional standing. Over the years, western writers like Huntington (1957), Janowitz (1971) and Sarkesian (1975) had given their views on the subject of military profession and professionalism.
They had identified the following general characteristics of military professionalism which are organizational structure, special knowledge, education and training, self-regulation and commitment. The Malaysian Army had rise up to the challenge in addressing the issues of military professionalism among its personnel. All the characteristics of military professionalism mentioned earlier are being addressed seriously by the Army.
Therefore, the Army has taken an approach by introducing the Competency Based Training and Assessment (CBTA) as a measure to increase the level of professionalism among its personnel. CBTA is not a new approach in training. It has been a nationwide move by the Ministry of Human Resources. Malaysia, along with the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Sweden and Germany were the main players in implementing CBTA since year 2000. The introduction of the National Skills Certification System in 1993 by the Majlis Latihan
Vokasional Kebangsaan (MLVK) and the soon to be implemented National Skills Development Act by the Ministry of Human Resources as well as the Malaysian Qualification Framework (MQF) by the Ministry of Higher Education will serve to restructure and streamline the national vocational and skills training in the country towards meeting the demands of today’s job tasks more effectively. Its introduction is indeed timely, given the high priority that it places on the area of human resource development.
With the emphasis towards preparing trained and qualified skilled workforce to support the country’s economic development, therefore, the more flexible framework of national skills recognition and qualifications is necessary to promote a conducive training culture for the personal motivation of skilled workers, which would hence lead to the overall upgrading of competencies amongst the country’s skilled workforce. Competency based learning has been the basis of most training and has been practiced in most countries.
The Roman Army for example, were masters of competency training as applied to large groups and their effectiveness in delivering such training was a major contributor to their military success. A perfect description of competency training is as follows: “Their drills are like bloodless battles, and their battles are like bloody drills. ” Joseph Ben-Matthias, aka Flavius Josephus The terms of CBTA have many variations. Some countries know it as Competency Based Learning (CBL) and some countries call it Competency Based Training (CBT). Nevertheless, competency is the main keyword.
CBT was a critical factor in the US Army’s ability to train several million young men during World War II. With the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1942, the US Military was faced with the requirement to train millions of young men for its rapidly expanding armed forces. This rapid expansion required a method for quickly providing people with the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to do a particular job. Using variations of CBT, millions of young men were trained, shipped to Europe or the Pacific and due to their training played a major role in the defeat of Germany and Japan.
The role of training in enabling the US Military to expand from a very small army to one of several millions in only a short period of time is mainly due to the effectiveness of CBT. The Vocational Education, Employment and Training Advisory Committee of Australia, sees CBTA as “training geared to the attainment and demonstration of skills to meet industry-specified standards rather than to an individual’s achievement relative to that of others in a group”. CBTA is basically a scientific approach to training that relies on identifying the knowledge, skills and attitudes required to do a particular job, for example for an infantry soldier.
The approach taken was to break each job down into groups of competencies. Competencies related to any particular job could be identified through a careful process of training analysis in terms of performance, conditions and standards. For example an infantry soldier might be required to perform firing of a rifle. The conditions required to fire the rifle at various conditions and positions. Example of standards required are, during day on a range at one hundred meters score fifty hits on a target measuring three foot high two foot wide, while standing.
There is considerable debate as to what actually makes a competency, but for general purposes it can be identified as a readily identified group of related knowledge, skills and attitudes, which taken together constitute a major part of a job which is subject to measurement and assessment. Generally if you cannot measure performance with a stop watch then it is probably not a competency. To give an example, firing a rifle in terms of infantry training can be regarded as a competency. It is a major part of an infantry man’s job. It can be measured in terms of performance, conditions and standards and you can put a stop watch to it.
For example, ten shots in the target within one minute. The Malaysian Armed Forces (MAF) adopted CBTA based on the concept implemented by the Australian Defence Forces (ADF). The ADF practiced the CBTA concept since year 1996. The MAF, realizing the need to revamp the approach towards training, started the initiative towards CBTA in 2002 and started implementing CBTA in year 2007. The introduction of CBTA in the Army training programs has lead to the establishment of the Malaysian Army Competency Standard (MACS). It is a document that underlines the necessities and requirements that must be obtained by a soldier in their field of expertise.
MACS will be assessed based on job proficiency in order to make sure soldiers can accomplish tasks at a level that can be accepted. The Army has identified that there are 318 career and functional courses based on the Armed Forces Code No 2 (AF Code No 2) that need to meet the requirement of MACS. Since the introduction of CBTA until end of year 2011, the number of soldiers who have qualified for the Malaysian Skills Certification (MSC) or also known as Sijil Kemahiran Malaysia (SKM) from Army training institutions is 42,408 students.
MSC or SKM is a certification structure which comprises of five levels National Skills Qualification Framework based on National Occupational Skills Standard (NOSS). MACS development for the courses listed in the AF Code No 2 varies in terms of achieving SKM accreditation ranging from SKM Level 1 to 5. The strengths of implementing CBTA in the Army encompassed all the general characteristics of military professionalism mentioned earlier. In the area of education and training, once the competencies have been identified then it is relatively easy to structure a training course.
You might break the competencies down into component tasks, for example before you can fire a rifle, you would have to learn how to strip and assemble that rifle. That particular task might be listed as a specific learning outcome which has to be performed before meeting the final competency of firing a rifle under specific conditions. It would then be relatively easy to structure a training course, which might involve initial training and then further ‘On-The-Job’ training (OJT), which would deliver to the Army, soldiers with the necessary competencies to do the job required.
Implementation of CBTA also allows the Army training institution to produce a more comprehensive training package that take into account the core values of competency (knowledge, skill and attitude). Efficiency in managing training courses, effectiveness of course delivery and systematic evaluation or assessment, ensure the quality of training, hence ensuring the quality of soldiers. Evaluation of a soldier does not end only at a particular training institution, which is the main approach in conventional method of training. CBTA allows continuous evaluation in the form of competency log.
This would ensure that a soldier does not only competent during training but also when performing task and duties at workplace. In addition, CBTA can also help the Army to develop a good organizational structure as part of achieving military professionalism. Job analysis and job specification which have been identified during CBTA process, allows the Army to have the right person for the right job. This would allow the Army to identify what sort of competency and soldiers it needs in its organizational hierarchy. Improvements have also been made on Army training centers organizational structure.
Moreover, besides having at least an officer responsible on CBTA at each of the Army training institutions, the Army also has started grooming its staff and instructors on what CBTA is all about. In year 2011, there were 5 courses conducted in the Army which aimed to increase the knowledge of the staffs and instructors. The courses were, Pegawai Latihan Vokasional (3 series), Induksi Pentauliahan Persijilan Kemahiran (3 series), Course of Study (4 series), Basic Instructor Methodology (1 series) and Kursus Induksi Pegawai Pengesahan Luaran Vokasional (1 series).
These courses would lead the Army to ensure that CBTA is well understood, taught and implemented. As a result, the objectives of CBTA implementation can be achieved. Military professionalism should not only be accepted among military personnel but it must be recognized by the general public. CBTA has allowed military professionalism to be accepted and recognized. The implementation of CBTA in the Army is consistent with the requirement of MLVK. Adoption of CBTA provides soldiers with another qualification path and career development opportunity that has been established in line with the academic qualification structure.
In other words, this means that the double qualification structure is based on two types of qualifications, namely the academic qualification and the skills qualification that are available in this country today. The emergence of this new skills qualification structure has opened up a whole new set of opportunities for all soldiers after completing their service in the Army. In addition, it also caters to soldiers who have no qualifications to show despite having years of working experience.
As an example, PULMAT has able to get SKM accreditation of SKM Level 4 for its Souse Chef course. It is the highest level of SKM accreditation achieved among all the 318 courses conducted by Army training institutions. Attaining SKM Level 4 accreditation is equivalent to a diploma based on NOSS. Therefore, it can be said that soldiers who have achieved competency in the course is at par with others in the business environment or the labour market. They would also have a better career path after completing military service if they decided to pursue any job with similar competency level.
A lot of discussions have been made regarding to the advantages and strengths of CBTA in having the Army desired results. Nevertheless, CBTA also have some weaknesses in heading to higher level of professionalism in the Army. Looking at the milestone and achievement of CBTA in the Army until today, the figures and statistics can be said to the extent of they are alarming. Out of the 17 Army training institutions, only 9 training centers or about 50% are considered accredited training centers. They are IKED, IKEM, IJED, PULMAT, PULNORD, PULAPOT, PULPAK, PULADA and IPDA.
These training centers have in total of 42 courses out of 318 courses that have been accredited with SKM certification. This only made up to approximately 13% out courses listed in the AF Code No 2. Only one course managed to get SKM Level 4, 13 courses at SKM Level 3 and 28 courses with SKM Level 1 to Level 2. IJED has the most courses in terms that are accredited with the national level SKM. Based on the AF Code No 2, year 2011, out of the 21 courses were conducted by IJED, 12 courses are accredited with national SKM.
In addition, IKEM and PULMAT have 7 courses each with national SKM accreditation. PULADA on the other hand, only have 1 course (Dog Unit Handler Course) which has achieved national SKM accreditation. This is very distressing figures for the Infantry Corps in terms of where is the future of Infantrymen during their service and once they leave the service. The competence level of Infantrymen should portray the professionalism of the Army since most Infantry officers would end up as top brass in the Army.
As for the future of Infantrymen after their service, the Army must take a necessary action to in order to ensure that Infantry soldiers have a decent competency to compete in the labour market, especially for the other ranks where they would normally retire by the age of 45 and still need to work to support their family. With only 1 course accredited (SKM Level 2) out of 18 courses conducted by PULADA, CBTA can be said as failed to increase the level of professionalism for the Infantrymen. Only those who have the technical skills and knowledge while serving in Corps such as KJLJD and KPD would reap the benefits of CBTA.
With majority of Army personnel were only trained at SKM Level 1 and 2, one lead to wonder how SKM Level 1 and Level 2, help the Army to increase professionalism among its personnel. The general guideline of SKM level is as the following diagram. SKM Level 1 and Level 2 are categorized as in the operation and production level in terms of category of personnel. These are the level where most of Army personnel managed to obtain SKM certification from attending courses in year 2011. In year 2011, 4,800 Army personnel obtained SKM certification.
Only 11% (550 personnel) obtained SKM Level 3, 32% (1,516 personnel) obtained SKM Level 2 and 57% (2,734 personnel) obtained SKM Level 1. Thus, referring back to the general characteristics of military professionalism, if the Army considers having most of its personnel achieving SKM Level 1 and Level 2 as increment in professionalism, then CBTA would have met its objective. Nevertheless, military professionalism is more than just special skills as in SKM Level 1 and Level 2. The Army should be looking at aiming for at least SKM Level 3 in order to increase some level of professionalism.
SKM Level 3 will allow soldiers to have the three categories of personnel as shown in the diagram. The categories are skills, related/management skills and supervisory skills. Mastering them would lead to achieving military professionalism. When the MAF adopted CBTA, the general guideline of SKM competency has been laid out based on rank structure. SKM Level 1 for the rank of Private and Lance Corporal, Level 2 for Corporal, Level 3 for Sergeant and Staff Sergeant, Level 4 for Warren Officers and Level 5 for Officers. It can be said that some courses in the Army failed to meet the guideline.
As an example, the Section Commander course conducted at PULADA, is only developed to achieve SKM Level 2. Thus, for the Infantry Corps, most of its sergeants would have SKM Level 2 instead of SKM Level 3 as required by the MAF. This should be a major concern for the Infantry Corps because it has the most number of personnel in the Army. The number of personnel with the rank of sergeant in the Infantry Corps is approximately 1,500 personnel. In the Infantry Standard Battalion, personnel holding the rank of sergeant are 56% (57 personnel) out of the 102 Non-Commissioned Officers (NCOs) in the battalion.
The Infantry Section Commander course at PULADA basically focus on field application and tactics and not so much focus on managerial and administrative duties at the battalion. The managerial and administrative duties are covered mostly during the Pegawai Tidak Tauliah Rendah (PTTR) course at IPDA. Nevertheless, an infantry soldier is qualified to be given the rank of sergeant once he completed the Infantry Section Commander course. In an Infantry battalion, he is responsible to manage 7 personnel in his section.
In year 2011, PULADA conducted 3 series of the Infantry Section Commander course with total number of approximately 300 students. The 300 personnel would have little knowledge of managerial and administrative duties due to normal practice applied in an Infantry Battalion is that a soldier will go for PTTR course once he completed the Infantry Section Commander course and if the he is planned to be promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. Moreover, on average only 100 bits are given to Infantry Corps per year for the PTTR course.
In comparison to the 300 personnel attended the Infantry Section Commander Course per year, less than 50% would have the chance to attend the PTTR course. Hence, approximately 200 personnel would not be competent enough to manage a section of soldiers in the Infantry Battalion. In the Sistem Saraan Malaysia (SSM), a Sergeant in the Infantry Battalion will have to complete the PTTR course if he wishes to have a better pay. He will be given the P2 salary for the rank of Sergeant. Therefore, it can be said that money could be the motivational level to attend the PTTR course.
That motivation would force the learning of managerial and administrative knowledge during PTTR course where in return, it would make the Sergeant a better soldier, increasing his level of professionalism. Thus, it leads to the question on the new SBPA salary structure system where salary of P2 no longer applies. There could be personnel by the rank of Sergeant no longer wish to attend the PTTR course if they feel that they would not be promoted to the rank of Staff Sergeant. Hence, it can be said to the extent that without the PTTR course they would be less professional.
For an Infantry Battalion, the 57 Sergeant would not have the competency to manage approximately 500 soldiers in the battalion if no one attends the PTTR course. The chain reaction effect of this issue is that officers would have a larger responsibility in ensuring military professionalism is carried out in the Army. The responsibility supposedly to be shared among the NCOs and Officers in order to have a well structured organization as required in achieving military professionalism. Another area where CBTA is seen as does not promote the sense of professionalism is in terms of leadership training.
CBTA is not effective when used as a basis for training in areas such as leadership, and management where it is almost impossible to measure competency in terms of clearly defined behaviors that contribute to effective management and leadership, hence affecting the characteristics of military professionalism. Such areas still rely on a subjective assessment made by experts in the field. For example many special forces training courses do use competencies as part of the training package where these competencies relate to measurable behaviors. Literally behaviors which can be measured with a stopwatch.
However, the final assessment must be subjective. Such assessment could take the form of a group of experts examining each individual and asking a question that can only be answered subjectively such as ‘would you go to war with this man’. If the answer is no, then it doesn’t matter how many behavioral competencies the individual has passed, he is not suitable. Such subjective assessment is probably still appropriate in assessing candidates for jobs where qualities are required that can only be defined subjectively by experts. For example priest, teacher, military officer or a flying instructor.
All of these types of jobs require qualities that it is almost impossible to define in terms of behavior. It is hard to say what exactly a good leader is actually doing, but we know it when we see it. Attitude competencies generally fail because they can only be measured in the negative. For example, a competency might require the individual to demonstrate the right attitude to safety. Well you can easily measure the wrong attitude, if somebody lights a cigarette in a no smoking area, you have a behavior which clearly demonstrates a poor attitude to safety.
But if the individual is not smoking, it doesn’t demonstrate a positive attitude, all it shows is that the person is not smoking. Officer training courses where students are aware that attitude is being assessed tend to lead to students falsifying their behaviors that they believe will be viewed in a positive light. For example demonstrating keenness by always smiling and being willing to do a task. Any assessment could only conclude that the person is competent at smiling and effective in using the language of volunteering, it says nothing about the individual’s attitude.
The keen individual might well turn out to be displaying a competency in duplicitous behavior, which might well be useful but is hardly a trait likely to endear the individual to his or her subordinates. CBTA could also lead to soldiers feel complacent on their achievement. They only have to achieve competence level since the evaluation is either he is competent or not yet competent. In contrast, the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) adopted the Competency Based Learning (CBL) and has a different competence level assessment.
The differences between the Malaysian’s Army CBTA are that the SAF’s CBL evaluate performance based on five level of competency. The levels are, Novice/Advance Beginner, Competent, Proficient and Expert. The SAF feels that these are the necessary levels that should be assessed in CBL especially leadership training. Therefore, the Malaysian Army leadership training could be hampered in increasing level of professionalism due to soldiers feel that they only have to be assessed as competent. In order to excel, one should not feel complacent but try to bring the best out of him.
In conclusion, the Malaysian Army should have a well defined terms and definition of military professionalism. From there, it would be able to understand how CBTA can improve the level of professionalism among its personnel. Based on the discussions, arguments and empirical evidence of CBTA achievements in the Army, it can be concluded that the level of professionalism could be increased solely by implementation of CBTA. Nevertheless, it does not mean that CBTA has failed in terms of its objectives, it merely need a minor overhaul in terms of the SKM level needed by Army personnel in achieving professionalism. 3894 words) REFERENCES 1. Janowitz, Morris, The Professional Soldier, The Free Press, New York, 1971. 2. Huntington, Samuel P. , The Soldier and the Slate, Belknap Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 1957. 3. Sarkesian, Sam C. , The Professional Army officer in a Changing Society, Nelson-Hall Publishers, Chicago, 1975. 4. Ramatahan, K. , Leadership Development Through the Singapore Armed Forces (SAF) Competency Based Learning Project, SAFTI Military Institute, Singapore, 2000. 5.
Annual Report, Laporan Perkembangan Latihan dan Penilaian Berasaskan Kompetensi (LPBK) Tahun 2011, MK LAT-BPL(MLVK)/G3/3001/5(71) dated Feb 2012. 6. MACS Report, Pembangunan Standard Kompetensi Tentera Darat (SKTD) Untuk Tugas Penolong Ketua Platun Infantri Dan Ketua Seksyen Infantri, MK-TD Jab Inf, Kuala Lumpur, Jul 2008. 7. Paper Work, Konsep Strategi dan Perlaksanaan LPBK Dalam Angkatan Tentera Malaysia, MATM/J1CTK/A/238/8 dated 12 Dis 2005. 8. AF Code No 2, Jadual Kursus Tempatan Tahun 2011, Markas Pemerintahan Latihan dan Doktrin Tentera Darat, Kuala Lumpur, 2011.