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Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Eleven Plus and The Educated Child

Aristotle was wise and venerable man He lived long ago – long before the eleven plus was a twinkle in the eye of the educators of England. He cautioned us in his first book, Nichomachean Ethics that the mark of an educated man was that in every subject he looked for as much precision as its nature permitted.

It may be apposite to feel that some parts of the eleven plus syllabus are not designed to ensure our bright and able eleven plus children enter the grammar school educated and willing to learn. Some areas of verbal and non verbal reasoning can be taught by rote and learnt by rote. They can also be executed by rote in the actual examination.

In our lessons we sometimes work from book and papers from the major and well established publishers. The child looks at a new topic with amazement and confusion. An explanation is offered. There are smiles all around. The job is done. The topic has been mastered. Life goes on. There is no room for subjectivity, analysis and real deep contemplative thought. All that has happened is that the child has added another eleven plus notch.

The eleven plus, in its present form, does not seem to be designed to guide children into making assumptions and building theoretical constructs. The examination seems to force children into absorbing a multitude of hard facts. “This is how you do percentages. This is how you do analogies.”

The papers from the major publishers somehow seem to expect children to be able to answer question after question in set times. There is no room for contemplating evidence. The child is judged by being able to answer a set number of questions in a set time.

It can be argued that the role of the eleven plus is not to educate children but to find children who can cope with a grammar school education.

Surely the role of the eleven plus should be to try to find educated children who would benefit from a grammar school education?

Aristotle also said:

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

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