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Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Consequences

It was argued back in the 1950s that the eleven plus examination was the only fair and objective form of selection.

Examinations today are often looked on in different way – for example as a measure of national standards.

There are some who feel that if all examinations were done away with there would be no guarantee of quality.

Others feel that examinations provide recognisable goals. The Eleven Plus certainly acts as spur to parents and children.

We know that examinations as we know them today originated in the universities at the beginning of the nineteenth century. Medieval universities used examinations to recruit people to their guilds. In 1760 Cambridge had written examinations – but it was Oxford in around 1800 that provided the basis of a system of examinations as we know them today. The great plan was that better candidates would be identified. The scores of the top twelve candidates were published. One near by local authority promotes a list of the top 180 eleven plus candidates! Who says that there is anything new in education?

Children working through the eleven plus papers need to listen to their teachers, tutors and parents. They also need to concentrate and learn. The present eleven plus syllabus is remarkably restricted for many children. Some good mathematicians are hampered by fact that there are so few topics in a typical eleven plus syllabus. Other children naturally find the scope daunting.

The eleven plus is often a route of discovery for parents and children. Children learn about themselves – and often parents find that their knowledge of mathematics is far greater than they would have thought to be possible.

Many families find that the eleven plus provides a focus to study. It is tempting to all concerned to stay on a narrow and prescribed path. The eleven plus also provides a wonder opportunity for parents and children to work together. The examination provides some sort of barometer of relationships with in the family.

At some time or another the child simply has to settle down and do some work. The consequences of failure? Well we all remember one boy who did not listen to his mother:

Little Willie from his mirror
Licked the mercury right off,
Thinking in his childish error,
It would cure his whooping cough.
At the funeral his mother
Smartly said to Mrs Brown:
“Twas a chilly day for Willie
When the mercury went down.”

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