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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Questioning the Eleven Plus

Where would we be without the thinkers on education of yesteryear? There are a number of proclamations from the past that could apply to our present eleven plus children.

“Not everyone is called to be a lawyer, a physician, a philosopher to live in the public eye; nor has everyone outstanding gifts of natural capacity.” This was not written in the last fifty years but by Da Feltre who lived between 1378 and 1446.

A more contemporary call on our present eleven plus sensibilities was made by Locke (1632 to 1704) who maintained that “everyone’s natural genius should be carr’d as far as it could, but to attempt to put another upon him, will but Labour in vain.”

We have a boy with us this year who, back in October of last year, scored in the low 20% range on the initial standardised tests of mathematics and abilities. He parents only wanted to `give him a chance’. The same boy is now up in the late eighties. He is at the same school – which does not support the eleven plus.

This lad is adamant that he wants to `go to grammar’. The fact that he is outside any logical catchment area is incidental. His parents are already looking at houses near to the grammar school. They are talking about leaving their son at his present school when they move, as they hope to do in reasonable time before the eleven plus.

The eleven plus examination attempts to measure a child’s ability by comparing performances on a test against that of other children taking the test. A question that is suitable for the majority of ten year old children may not serve as a question that can select children who need to pass an eleven plus examination.

A class teacher at school is teaching for the good of the class – as well as the well being of every very single one of his or her pupils. The children can not all learn at the same rates. The same applies to the rate at which eleven plus children learn.

The eleven plus, because it is aimed at selecting a certain type of child, attempts to classify and grade children. Is it very wrong to try to find children who have the ability to be lawyers, physicians and philosophers? After all, someone has to do it!”

Is it also wrong to offer children the chance of reaching their potential? Few teachers and parents would argue against that – it is just that some do not like the idea that the eleven plus is the preferred method.

Eleven plus ability is measured only after many assumptions. Eleven plus potential is also subject to a variety of theoretical contributions. Some may have also felt for a long time that questions like: `Find the odd one out: run step write hop walk’ is a bit odd too!

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