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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Eleven Plus Questions

We can’t blame the Eleven Plus for everything but big changes took place in England around the 1950s. Schools stopped teaching many subjects that had been part of a child’s education for many years. Teachers today do not seem to as involved in the classic subjects like Latin and Poetry. The whole tenor of the Eleven Plus would change today if elements of these two subjects were to become part of the so called eleven plus syllabus.

We know that some children are going to go on to be great explorers – these children will hear strange songs and dance to new beats. They will hear poems in other languages – sometimes with great epic stories. Other children will prefer to stay close to home and enjoy the familiar sounds and noises of their childhood.

Who is to say if the poem produced by one courageous child is better than one built up in a painstaking manner by a child who will never live more than a mile from the ancestral home? Should the poetry in the eleven plus then be about the analysis of a poem (as in the current GCSE examinations) or the form of a creative adventure?

There is a little song from Zimbabwe that may entertain. The song does not set out to be an epic. It does not try to scan. There is no need for an audit of feelings and emotions – it is simply a little song sung by some Mashona families:

Pasi Pamera Ziso

Pasi pamera ziso tururuzai wona

Wonawona ziso tururuzai wona.

Of course a multiple choice question is easier to mark and grade. Would an A Level English teacher at a grammar school, however, prefer a child who can think and create to one who arrived in the 6th form having been carefully drilled at the age of ten into answering certain types of questions?

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