The Year 2011 looks as if it has the potential to become a time of great educational change. For years educationalists have tried to make education `child centred’ rather than `teacher centred’ yet the eleven plus seems to continue to trumpet the need for it to be `examination centred’. It does seem very wrong, at times, that children who do not pass the eleven plus can be written off because some old fashioned view of what constitutes ability and intelligence.
We know from our exploration into online teaching and learning that the introduction of technology has the ability to throw doubt on some aspects of traditional eleven plus teaching. For years some parents have been content with the idea of the eleven plus tutor arriving on a bicycle with a basket of books and papers. In all but a few cases the bicycle has probably given way to a comfy saloon and it is either `your place or mine’.
The advent of the internet has allowed children to be able to complete online tests in mathematics, verbal reasoning, English and non verbal reasoning. Some of the online exercises have cunning and satisfying methods of delivering answers and of marking and scoring the tests.
At times it seems as if it is tremendous pity that the eleven plus is aimed at bright and able children. If only the same technology and attitude to striving for success could be offered to the less able.
The very nature of the present eleven plus requires children to learn facts and methods. There is even one verbal reasoning paper which requires children to learn twenty one different types of verbal reasoning question. For better or for worse this must be the most soul destroying examination for children to prepare for.
“If your child learns these twenty one types of verbal reasoning then he or she will have a better chance of passing the eleven plus.”
How sad. How rooted in the educational ethos of fifty years ago! Clearly these must be many kinds of intellect and abstract reasoning that are not covered by the `rule of the twenty one’. If decisions about a child’s future education are based on a narrow system of informed guesses, and a child’s ability to react in a programmed manner to set questions, then a challenge does need to be mounted.
Parents can’t lead the way. Would anyone in authority have the courage to say: “If you don’t like the idea of the examination, and the manner in which it is conducted, then don’t encourage your child to sit the examination?”
We do need an eleven plus examination to sift out bright children who would benefit from an academic education. Does the present form of the examination direct children towards thinking and behaving in conservative patterns? Is there any transfer of training from being able to solve twenty one types of verbal reasoning question to other types of thinking and reasoning? Has there ever been a will to see if there could be an alternative form of the examination? Does any one `in authority’ want to see if there are answers to at least parts of these questions?