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Saturday, April 09, 2011

The Relevance of the Eleven Plus

We know that many years ago psychologists had a strong bearing on the development of the eleven plus. There are many people today who are still deeply suspicious of the eleven plus and all it entails. We know too that some psychologists are viewed with an element of suspicion – especially when their ideas and theories seem to be removed from common sense. Of course there are many different kinds of psychologist – and each would have a different interpretation on the value and significance of the eleven plus.

The analytical psychologist, for example, would be able to tell use about our instincts and emotions as we react in our different ways to the eleven plus. There are also the experimental psychologists who developed all the early theories on learning processes, transfer of training and the testing of ability. The psychologists who contributed to the development of the eleven plus may well have had opinions on the most economical and effective methods of learning and teaching. We can only surmise that these early pioneers may have been invited to venture into the content of the eleven plus examinations. These psychologists may have been credited with being able to comment, on psychological grounds, on particular questions and groups of questions.

When we look back at questions that were put to children fifty years ago we can still see traces of these questions in today’s eleven plus preparation papers. We must hope that some of the development of the questions has taken place in a non rational manner other wise some of today’s question papers are simply a conglomeration of interpretations. It would be a rash eleven plus teacher, tutor or publisher who would be able to take a stand and say that their method is the best or only way.

The whole eleven plus examination has developed into focusing on statistics, methods, measurement and content. There is a danger in outsiders seeing elements of the whole industry as being self serving. The wonderfully gifted teacher working on a one to one basis with a deserving child may feel lost in welter of discussion on the best papers to use. It is a sad day when questions on eleven plus papers, and the number of correct questions, can be considered, by some, as being more important than the nutritional development of gifted brains. If only the eleven plus could be looked at again in terms what constitutes ability. We would be able to look then at the relevance of today’s examination in terms of tomorrow’s future.

As it stands the eleven plus is relevant because it selects children for grammar school. The system works – and, therefore, why change? Is there, however, a need for a timely look into the present examination and the course it should take? Are we missing something?

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