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Monday, August 08, 2011

Changes to the Eleven Plus

There was a Swiss Psychologist called Jean Piaget. He had a considerable number of theories on education, school and children. He was born in 1896 and before he reached the age of fifteen he was researching into problems in zoology. He was offered various position of some importance in the academic world after correspondence with eminent and learned zoologists who were unaware he was a school boy!

Every eleven plus parents will understand the relevance of the next few sentences. He was a married man with three children – and he maintained that it was his children who taught him much about intelligence! Sadly his children were educated long before the eleven plus was even thought of – otherwise we may have had a different perception of the nature and the intent of the present examination.

He developed what is called the `constructivist theory’ – which viewed learning as an active process in which people continually construct new knowledge from their experiences in the world. According to this theory people do not get ideas – they make them.

Think of an eleven plus world where children did not have to slog through eleven plus papers – but were encouraged to think about and develop new ideas for assessing children at the eleven plus stage! Instead of teachers and educators sitting in front of their computers building endless tests and eleven plus papers designed to test and develop different types of eleven plus ability – these same teachers and educators could be helping, mentoring and guiding children to think for themselves!

Of course Piaget was criticised by British writers who felt that his work lacked sophisticated statistics. But think – the eleven plus is based on the supposition that a cumulative score on a numbers of papers can give an accurate measure of a child’s ability. The eleven plus examination gives us a score that children have to reach in order to earn a place in a grammar school. In the face of a lack of recent published research – surely this is taking for granted that all children fit into one mould?

Eleven plus children have to `get the right answer’. We can see this from the examination and the different types of practice papers. There is little place for the eleven plus to be able to look at the methods children use to arrive at the answer.

If the eleven plus was altered to try to encourage children to demonstrate that they understood the method of arriving at the answer – as well as the actual answer we would be sure that this would lead to a different type of examination. What form should the examination take? This is where we need to ask the children for their opinions and ideas. We may need to catch them early on before they became too indoctrinated.

Our eleven plus children would need to be educated to be able to understand where they were going and what type of child the grammar schools wanted. Spending time on this exercise may be more useful that working through question after question.

Do you remember the Rime of the Ancient Mariner? Can you recall those two memorable verses?

Day after day, day after day,
We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
As idle as a painted ship
Upon a painted ocean.

Water, water, every where,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.

Our Eleven Plus tale could be:

Dad after day, day after day,
I am stuck before eleven plus papers.
With silly questions that become so boring
Oh dear. Oh dear! Woe is me!

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