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Army education making a difference in young lives

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Education may not be the first thing that comes into your mind when you think of the army. Perhaps the typical view of the army involves soldiers in combat situations or military exercises. At the Army Foundation College in Harrogate they take a rather different approach. They take young people who have often left school with no GCSE qualifications at all and train them for army life.

A large part of that training involves subjects such as English and Maths, and yet the difference in results achieved with the students is startling.

When students who left school at 16 with no qualifications come to the Army Foundation College it is common for them to achieve English, Maths, and IT qualifications in a year. Something that many years of state education failed to do for them.

What makes the difference?

Why is it that Army education appears to be succeeding where State education has been failing? There are some clues to be found in comments by some recent Phase 1 graduates at the college:

“The teachers are a lot more relaxed, it’s a good teaching environment. They treat you like adults who want to learn.”

“It was more one to one with the tutor. If you’re struggling with something, he can help you because there’s not so many people in the classroom.”

While the small class sizes, and the one-to-one tuition certainly explain part of the success of the college, they do not explain how it is that the college is so successful with students who have previously shown little interest in education. It is the ability of the college to make education relevant to real life that helps them to engage with their students – and to bring education to life for them.

Regional press officer, Penny Veale outlined the college methods:

“The lessons mean more here because, if they’re setting them a maths problem, it might be ‘you have x amount of space to fill, how many jerry cans can you fit in it?’ It will be pertinent to what they will actually need.”

All of the English and maths skills learned by the students are applied to practical purposes so that they come to understand that they are not absorbing abstract principles, but information which has a useful, real life application for them.

Is there anything else the army college can teach us?

When talking to the students at the army college one of the things which is most noticeable is that they have a far greater level of maturity than is normally found in teenagers of their age. This is something that even the students themselves acknowledge

Bradley Floyd, 17, reported:

“when you get to the training regiment, you’re expected to be like a grown-up, not a child. You’ve joined the army. You haven’t joined a school.”

While Daniel Sanderson said:

“I think I’ve grown up a lot quicker and faster than them.”

when talking about his school friends. Along with their increased maturity these students gave gained valuable ‘soft’ skills. They demonstrate development in conversational skills, and self-confidence. Skills that can only make them more employable whatever the future holds for them after they graduate from the Army Foundation College.