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Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Content of the Eleven Plus

Parents who choose to have their children work towards the eleven plus are pondering three key questions:

Does my child have the ability to pass the eleven plus?

Would an academic life at grammar school suit him or her?

What should be taught in preparation for the eleven plus?

In the nineteenth century educationalists believed in the concept of `transfer of training’. If you teach a child to be good at one thing this will transfer across to other subjects. The fallacy of this argument is perpetuated in certain key eleven plus examinations. “If you teach a child to be good at passing the eleven plus he or she will succeed academically.” This is not to say that all types of verbal reasoning questions are a waste of time – but some categories of questions do appear to be somewhat farcical in nature.

Surely it would be better to build an eleven plus curriculum that satisfied the educational needs of bright and able children? Suppose you want your child to do very well in an approaching dominoes competition – you then set out to teach your child to be good at dominoes. There are many different types of domino competitions. You teach your child five different types of games. You arrive at the competition and are handed a set of rules. Your child will be faced with a brand new type of game. The dominoes still have to be placed end to end – but there is an unforeseen twist in the game.

Of course you can weep and wail and complain.

You can accept the situation- give your child a hug - and tell him or her to get on with it.

You can take your mobile phone out of your pocket and phone your dominoes teacher and castigate him or her for not foreseeing a change of rules.

(Of course you could blame yourself – parents do like to feel guilty at times.)

In the examination your child will show that he or she may or may not have the ability to pass a particular type of eleven plus examination. This does not say that your child does not have the ability to pass a different style of eleven plus examination.

Suitability of grammar school
Self respecting parents will know the answer to this question themselves. Why try to fit a square peg into a round hole?

Eleven Plus Preparation
Some types of question do not seem to have changed much in the last fifty years. It is possible that that there may be a case for a review of the eleven plus.

Very little is written about changing content the eleven plus. Is it because no one wants to rock the boat? It is because the eleven plus syllabus is so traditional in nature that no one is brave enough to challenge it?

The eleven plus may need to be able to respond to the changes that have taken place in the last fifty years. We need to look towards the future as well as the past.

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