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Wednesday, November 04, 2009

An Eleven Plus Rant

Where did the eleven plus syllabus spring from? From whence did the eleven plus syllabus spring? Both sentences are reasonably correct – but one is likely to be more correct than the other. We are, however, more likely to use one form than the other.

The first pointer to our present eleven plus syllabus comes from traditions of the Ancient Greeks and the Romans. The Renaissance arrived and provided a link between Latin and Greek and the more modern world. Our preoccupation with words and their uses in current verbal reasoning tests can possibly go back to the early position and importance of English in the curriculum.

A great scientific drive began in England which culminated in the Great Exhibition of 1851. England realised that technology played an important part in the educational development of the country. Without technology the great powers of industry and commerce could not flower. Some erudite savant proclaimed on the radio that the reason why Germany and Japan were emerging from the present recession was because both countries still had a great industry.

The third side of the present eleven plus syllabus came from the 1944 Education Act. The act required local authorities to present education based on age, aptitude and ability. The eleven plus examination emerged from the strictures of the act.

Unfortunately the eleven plus, in some geographical areas, has become a remarkably narrow test of ability and aptitude. There is much debate, for example, about the `21’ types of questions. Hidden in the twenty one types must be questions relating to words. It does seem likely that knowledge of elements of commerce and industry are covered by the questions. How, however, are children to be able to offer advances in technology if they have been selected on their ability to play with twenty one types of verbal reasoning question?

Science plays a remarkably small part in the present eleven plus examination. This must offer our eleven plus children a lasting legacy. Words and only words will open the gate to a grammar school education.

The present eleven plus, in some areas, offers much to the methods of tackling questions rather than the content. “If you do Type 12 in this way you will be able to complete the questions in the time allowed.” There is no place for scientific investigation or originality and self expression if we have to slavishly teach our children twenty one ways to pass an examination.

Shame on the so called `educationalists’ that we have this rigid specialisation at such a tender age. There is certainly little place in the examination for:

There was an old man of Blackheath
Who sat on his set of false teeth.
Said he with a start,
“O, Lord bless my heart,
I have bitten myself underneath.”

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