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Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Eleven Plus and Power

Why do people in authority keep trying to change the education system? It is easy to see why regulations like school uniform and wearing jewellery or make up to school become important. After all, authority must not be challenged. If there is opposition to a rule, then it is a very natural reaction to fight back. Problems can escalate until there is only a stern recourse to draconian measures. But why do ministers of education want to change the whole premise of schooling?

The new academies that are springing up to educate children at senior school level could soon be joined by junior school academies. Part of the idea must be `if it is broke then fix it’. It could also be a strong instinct within people in power to want to `leave a mark’.

It is conceivable that some of our eleven plus children are being educated in school where authority and regulations are being challenged on a daily basis. Other children could be affected by changes with the classroom – as well as within the school.

One thing is for sure – that our education system will never become ossified. Change in education is inevitable. The contents and regulation of Eleven Plus, however, do not seem to have changed much over recent years.

Back in 1971 a learned educationalist called Illich argued that: “School prepares for the alienating institutionalisation of life by teaching the need to be taught.”

It is not hard to see how the very nature and composition of the eleven plus examination appears to lean towards selecting children that do conform and children that want to wear uniforms. What about children who do rebel? Some of these children may miss all the advantages of a grammar school education. After all if a child passes an eleven plus examination, it is likely that some form of preparation must have taken place. (We all know, however, of stories of some children who never open an eleven plus paper and still pass the examination.)

It is conceivable to suppose that some children who come from uneasy home backgrounds are more prone to rebellion that children from stable back grounds. These then are the children that grammar schools should try to find.

If any `leader’ wants to leave a legacy – why not try to find the children from poor backgrounds who do not have all the advantages offered to more privileged children? When the inevitable political upset arrives and the education `leader’ ispassed to obscurity – or the back benches – surely a worth while epitaph would be:

“The educator of the poor and disenfranchised.”

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