You have two hourglasses – a four minute glass and a seven minute glass. You want to measure exactly nine minutes. How do you do it?
Is there a place for questions like this within the eleven plus?
In the first place the Eleven Plus Curriculum is what is taught, how its taught and how the outcomes are assessed. By having an actual examination it means that parents, teachers and children are concerned what is learned and how it is learned.
It is more likely that changes to the Eleven Plus Curriculum will be made if changes are made to the way that eleven plus children are assessed. At the moment of writing, however, there does not seem to be a groundswell of desire to change the present eleven plus examination system. Is this inertia? Is it apathy? Is the present test fair to all?
It is likely that most children, who are on an eleven plus journey, will do better at school as a result of the extra stimulation and enrichment. Some could ague that progress is made simply because of the pressure of the approaching examination. Others will maintain that children on eleven plus courses generally receive good tuition. Others will be glad that their bright eleven plus child flourishes because of the extra individual attention.
The eleven plus does provide clear objectives for teachers, parents and children. The ability to meet the objectives is clouded by the content of the examination. At the moment parts of the eleven plus examination can be made up of questions based on facts. This can lead to some children being drilled. Children who are receptive to being drilled could potentially do better on some parts of the paper to children who prefer to think their way through the examination.
What kind of child can solve the hourglass question?
Turn both glasses over. When the four minute glass runs out – turn the glass over. Four minutes have passed.
When the seven minute glass runs out, turn it over. Seven minutes have elapsed.
When the four minute glass runs over eight minutes have gone by.
The seven minute glass has been running for one minute.
Turn it over again.
When it stops, nine minutes have elapsed. (8 + 1 = 9!)
Is a question of this nature investigating the ability to learn to think or is it testing a skill that can be learnt? Some would argue that the question is a bit of both. If so, is this a fair eleven plus question?