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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Questions in the Eleven Plus

We have a copy of Modern Cookery Illustrated by Lydia Chatterton. There is no date on the book but it was probably produced in the 1950s. The book is a hardback – but bound in cloth. We think that the book belonged to my wife, Susan’s mother. The book traveled out to Zimbabwe, and was then brought back when our family entered England some years ago.

There is a section on electricity. Page 15: “Today the majority of housewives obtain current for cooking and other domestic tasks for three farthings and in many cases a halfpenny a unit. Under such conditions electricity ceases to be an expensive method of cooking.”

It was in these long ago days that the Eleven Plus was introduced. Today’s children would struggle to understand a halfpenny much less three farthings. Today’s families would not be able to buy electricity at such a unit price.

Electricity has moved on. So have our families. We have access to a wide selection of kitchen gadgets. Page 18: goes on to talk about refrigerators. “Refrigerators, once only heard of in mansions and hotels – are now installed as a fitment in many of the new flats and housewives who have purchased their own on the hire purchase system declare that they save more the weekly sum they cost to buy. (1s. 8d. per week, or 2s. 6d. for the larger size is more than paid for by the serving in food.)”

If we feel the need to smile at the two sections taken from the 1950s cookery book I wonder why we still allow some Eleven Plus questions that date from that era.

Today’s Eleven Plus children are computer literate. They are internet literate. They will have seen more films by the time they are eleven than some eleven year olds from the fifties will have seen in their lifetime. Some of the Eleven year olds writing this year will have traveled to Europe, America and Asia. They will have eaten meals under the mantle of an African night time. Today’s child will have more tunes on their ipods than the eleven year olds from the 50s will have been able to collect as 78 singles.

If today’s children have had so many opportunities to learn in new and exciting ways, I wonder why Eleven Plus papers still have questions like:

Beatrice was born in 1998. She has sister exactly three years older. In what year was she born?

I think we need to ask the children what they think they should be tested on. After all today’s child will have a wide variety of experiences to draw on. So we need to `turn the light out’ on the team of `experts’ who are fashioning Eleven Plus examination papers and look for `flashes of insight’ from our able ten and eleven year olds.

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