Will Tactical Medicine be Taught in Schools: Analysis of the Draft Law

Will Tactical Medicine be Taught in Schools: Analysis of the Draft Law

Photo: ua.depositphotos.com / oleksii.chumachenko
5 October 2023
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On August 7, 2023, representatives of the European Solidarity (ES) faction registered in the Verkhovna Rada Draft Law No. 9576  regarding teaching fundamental tactical medicine skills. The bill’s key objective is to review and update educational programs for students in grades 8-11 of general secondary education institutions regarding the provision of pre-medical assistance. 

The draft law proposes to supplement the list of basic competencies for school students, such as proficiency in the state language, financial literacy, and environmental or innovation competencies, with skills in the field of tactical medicine. These skills are intended to be acquired by all graduates of secondary education institutions.

School graduates’ possession of pre-medical assistance skills appears to be beneficial both in wartime and peacetime. However, the question remains whether it will be possible to implement this initiative in practice.

What’s wrong with the current program?

Currently, the educational program for grades 10-11 includes a subject called “Defense of Ukraine,” which incorporates hours dedicated to studying the fundamentals of tactical medicine. An interesting aspect of this educational discipline is that it has separate curricula for boys and girls, which significantly differ in terms of content. For example, the curriculum for boys emphasizes military training, while the curriculum for girls focuses primarily on pre-medical assistance. In accordance with the educational workload for 10th-grade students, only 10 out of a total of 52 hours are allocated to the block of pre-medical aid, where students acquire competencies related to basic life support and providing pre-medical assistance for bleeding emergencies. Tactical medicine, in the context of combat situations, is included in the curriculum only for 11th graders, with boys receiving just 9 out of 35 hours for its study.

Furthermore, there is a noticeable bias toward theoretical knowledge rather than practical skills. For example, in the 10th grade, less time is allocated to the basics of pre-medical assistance than to purely theoretical components, with a total of 11 hours (4 and 7 hours, respectively) given to topics such as “Fundamentals of Ukraine’s National Security” and “Armed Forces of Ukraine in Defense of Ukraine.” Conversely, the practical topic “Fundamentals of Civil Defense” consists of only five introductory theoretical hours out of 12. In our opinion, it would be more prudent to redistribute the hours between theoretical and practical components, increasing the number of hours dedicated to topics that involve the acquisition of essentially practical skills.

The girls’ programs primarily emphasize the field of medicine. However, the 10th-grade program also leans toward a more theoretical approach. The program allocates 36 hours out of 52 for studying basic medical knowledge and pre-medical assistance, with only 6 hours out of 36 designated for educational and training sessions. Distributing the hours equally between theoretical and practical sessions would be more optimal and effective. In the 11th grade, out of the 35 hours dedicated to ‘Defense of Ukraine,’ 29 focus on medical fundamentals, and 22 specifically cover pre-medical assistance in combat situations. Practical sessions make up nearly half of the total time for these classes, amounting to 10 hours.

In addition to excessive theoretical content, the educational programs exhibit an uneven distribution of material between boys and girls. Currently, the programs are essentially divided by gender: girls primarily receive medical knowledge, while boys focus more on military training. This division may not be very equitable, especially considering that expertise in both areas is relevant regardless of gender, particularly in modern times. In girls’ programs, the study of medical knowledge and tactical medicine occupies more than half of the instructional time (69% in the 10th and 81% in the 11th grades), which should be sufficient for covering the necessary material. However, in boys’ educational programs, insufficient time is allocated for learning the basics of pre-medical assistance (19% in the 10th and 25% in the 11th grades). In our opinion, it would be optimal to create a unified program without gender-based divisions, where one part focuses on medical knowledge and the other on military preparedness. Within these blocks, more hours should be dedicated to practical training.

What does the draft law propose?

Bill No. 9576 proposes teaching school students tactical medicine not only in grades 10-11 but also in grades 8-9. This makes sense because a significant portion of students do not continue their education in higher grades and instead opt for technical or vocational education institutions, whose educational programs do not always include the study of tactical medicine fundamentals. 

If the draft law is approved, the Ministry of Education will need to make changes to the educational standards, review programs for high school students, and develop and approve tactical medicine teaching programs for grades 8-9. At first glance, it may seem that introducing a new course will increase the workload on students, potentially requiring a reduction in the number of hours allocated to other subjects. However, this can be avoided by reviewing and improving existing educational programs. For example, it is possible to modernize the “Health Fundamentals” curriculum by increasing the number of hours dedicated to practical knowledge of pre-medical assistance while reducing the theoretical content that students may have already covered in grades 6-7. 

Additionally, introducing the course in grades 8-9 would require additional funding, as the bill’s authors suggest. They propose sourcing funds both from the state and local budgets, as well as from international donors (although they do not specify the exact amount of funding required). One potential bottleneck could be the availability of qualified experts. According to data from the State Statistics Service, Ukraine has nearly 13,000 schools. Not all schools likely have teachers with modern knowledge in tactical medicine to instruct the course. Therefore, there would be a need not only to educate students but also to train teachers. Furthermore, funds would be necessary to provide educational materials and literature for the program. 

Therefore, in order to implement these changes in practice, it is necessary to calculate the cost of executing the draft law, including introducing relevant courses in schools, modernizing existing ones, training teachers, and acquiring educational materials.

However, these additional expenses will likely pay off in the long term. For example, people possessing pre-medical assistance skills (or having family members or acquaintances with such skills) will be able to provide first aid in case of injuries or acute medical conditions, increasing the chances of patients awaiting the arrival of emergency services.

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