Wednesday, 24 November 2010

"Sir, Yes Sir!" or Old soldiers never die they just get a little teacher-training

So Michael Gove has announced his education reforms, which the BBC are calling "the most radical in a generation". The White Paper called "The Importance of Teaching" sets out a range of reforms some good, some bad, some ugly.

The best idea, in my personal view, is making foreign languages compulsory to 16. Languages are about more than just language, learning them helps students understand other cultures and creates "global citizens".

Among the bad ideas is the proposal to cut the funding for school sports collaborations, which the Grauniad reckons will require a U-turn and lead to much too-ing and fro-ing in Westminster.

And then there is an ugly duckling, nestling in section 2.15, the government will be developing a "Troops to Teachers" programme. This aims to encourage ex-members of the Armed Forces to retrain as teachers by sponsoring their PGCEs.

The idea comes in conjunction with another, good proposal to create "Teach Next", bringing high fliers from other professions into teaching. It is a great idea to have some teachers with experience of the outside world, but why are troops special? Why do they get prioritised over ex-doctors and ex-engineers and ex-postmen?

Retraining and rehabilitating ex-servicemen and women is a must, don't get me wrong, but I do not see why they should be encouraged into teaching ahead of other professionals. Their life experiences and discipline skills have been highlighted, and it is true that pupils need role-models, but a skilled scientist could inspire some students just as much as a top officer could.

The idea will make teaching seem even less attractive to school leavers, however much Mr Gove may believe it, you do not need combat training to cope in classroom. The scheme may even have the effect of pushing troops to think of teaching ahead of other possibilities, regardless of their personal skills and aptitude. Some soldiers would make terrible teachers, just as with every other profession.

I also have a personal dislike of the increasing reach of the Armed Forces into everyday life. Placing troops in schools will act as a wonderful recruiting tool for the Forces and a great PR move. It is not the job of teachers to provide a world-view for their pupils, but to provide knowledge and the space to question that knowledge. A view of the military moulded in a classroom will be very difficult to break.

In can only hope that our education secretary has a rethink, by all means leave teacher training open to ex-troops, but just because they were troops doesn't mean they should be teachers.

There is a little CiF discussion on this topic which takes two sides of the argument and provides some good reading.

1 comment:

  1. Compulsory languages in school?

    The British learn French, the Australians study Japanese, and the Americans prefer Spanish.

    Yet this leaves Mandarin Chinese out of the equation.

    I think its time to move forward and teach common language, in all schools, and in all nations.

    The Esperanto online study course is now receiving 120,000 hits per month. That can't be bad :)