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Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Morality of the Eleven Plus

Will the eleven plus examinations ever be able to take into account the interests of bright children? Surely exercises taken from verbal reasoning and non verbal reasoning books and texts would not rate particularly highly on the league of interests of many eleven plus children?

Among the educational objectives of the eleven plus there must be at least one which stresses the need for the tests to be able to select bright children for an academic education. How much these needs are deep seated in children – or are simply a result of social pressure could be explored at length by academics and practitioners alike.

The eleven plus examination does, however, create an interest in verbal and non verbal reasoning exercises. But maintaining and sustaining this interest can not be part of the long term strategy of the eleven plus. We presume that children at the age of ten are reasonably malleable – and we know that they are generally prepared to study and work for a goal that not all will achieve. The eleven plus examination, will not however, serve the interests of all the children who prepare.

We have to accept that eleven plus examinations have the potential to guide children in learning methods of acquiring skills that could be useful in later life. The habit of study and the need to be competitive must, for example, be encouraged.

An eleven plus child has to know what an analogy is – and be able to apply this in both verbal and non verbal reasoning exercises. We presume that being able to solve analogies demands higher order skills. We know that parents and teachers can show children how to solve analogies. But how do children go about solving the analogies in the actual examination? Should the child start at the bottom and build towards an answer? Will the answer appear from the sky in a parachute?

If mother and father have gone over analogies at least fifty times before the examination – and the child can not work out the answer on the day, does this mean that the child has been badly taught or possibly does not have the predisposition to be able to learn in a grammar school environment? It may be that the examiner has looked at all the available literature and has invented some new form of presentation – or delved deep to find abstract and abstruse questions and answers.

The eleven plus child will often be forced to deduce an answer. If the act of deduction is an abiding objective of the eleven plus – then we hope that some will agree that the examination is worthy. If, however, the end result of a deductive process is simply achieving the right answer on a competitive and public test – then the examiners need to think again.

Some eleven plus children are highly moral by nature. They are not only moral in themselves but their parents are also prepared to follow and live by moral virtues. The eleven plus examination, however, does not attempt to entertain questions involving morality. There is an inherent problem – one man’s morals is another man’s immorality. Why can’t grammar schools seek to find bright children who are good at analogies – and have a strong sense of morality? These two events would not exclusive but may give rise to a new type of eleven plus question.

The ability to think and ponder on morality may engage the interests of eleven plus children far more readily than being able to provide an answer to an eleven plus question on analogies.

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