It’s probably a bit un-PC to compare school kids to the Taliban, but I have no doubt that when ex-soldiers make it through a two-year fast track programme to become teachers that they’ll notice the similarities. Teenagers and terrorists: liable to explode any minute.
‘Taliban’ is actually Pashto for ‘students,’ which I think is rather fitting. On a serious note, though, could military personnel make good teachers? So far, the reception is split.
The Department for Education thinks that soldiers have discipline, experience and training that could benefit the classroom. The idea is that retired soldiers (who often leave the forces after just a few years) could make highly competent teachers. In cases where the recruits do not have degree-level qualifications, the programme would involve two years of training — four days a week in a school and one in a classroom. Why would you need a degree when you can drive a tank?
Some critics say the training isn’t enough, and that policymakers are over-egging the benefits of a military skill-set. “To say you can simply transfer the skills from one to the other is an oversimplification of the complexities of dealing with pupil behaviour in schools,” said one teachers’ union representative.
Ok, there’s a problem there. Teaching is one of the most challenging professions on earth (having done a bit of it, I can say that). But wouldn’t hard work and discipline be useful? I would argue so, particularly at difficult inner-city schools, or those with drug and bullying problems. I also think that military teachers would get quite a bit of kudos for being cool – i.e. “wow, tell me about that terrorist you shot.”
The UK isn’t the first to introduce a Troops to Teachers programme. The US has already done it, to moderate success. It helps give direction to ex-soldiers looking for it, and helps schools pick up teachers when sometimes they are lacking, particularly in the sciences.
At the end of the day I think Russell Hobby of the National Union of Teachers put it the best, when he said the programme “seems predicated on the notion that military service automatically makes someone a good teacher, whereas the reality is, some will make brilliant teachers and some won’t.”
Bottom line: new ideas are good. Try this one, then decide its future when we have more than speculation to go on.