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Thursday, October 19, 2006

Education and The Eleven Plus

`Education is the inculcation of the incomprehensible into the indifferent by the incompetent.’

When you recall that the other great saying that he is remembered for is: `In the very long run we are all dead.’

His name naturally springs to mind as J. M Keynes. From your own studies you will recall that he went to Eton and from there on to Cambridge to read mathematics.

It does seem to me that it is very unlikely that helping youngsters with 11 Plus work is `inculcation’. There will be times, however, when all of us will wish that we could try to `impress something on the mind by frequent instruction or repetition‘.

The next key word is `incomprehensible’. Some 11+ questions may appear to be incomprehensible on first reading.

Two men, starting at the same point, walk in opposite directions for 4 meters, turn left and walk another 3 meters. What is the distance between them?

2 meters 6 meters 10 meters 12.5 meters 14 meters

This could be incomprehensible until one remembers Pythagoras.

Who are the indifferent? Every year we are amazed by the dignity and commitment of our eleven plus children. Our children care - and the great majority aim high and want the best. Indifference? Never!

But `Incompetent’? This one is easy. Do we teach different kinds of probability to ten year olds on 11+ courses because we think it will come up in the examination or because we think that bright children should be exposed to great ideas? Are we incompetent for not sticking to the `syllabus’ because we try to go on to extend knowledge with `Tree Probability’?

You see the first work at university of J. M. Keynes was on probability. If he had stayed a mathematician we can only wonder about the content of 11+ papers. We know that: `The square on the hypotenuse is equal to the sum of the squares on the other two sides.’ We know too that we are all a long time dead - so why not allow our very brightest to explore and soar?

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