We may need to go back to the 16th Century to a wise man, Vives, who had views on education that may have some relevance to today’s eleven plus examinations. Vives was concerned about the individuality of the pupil. He maintained that four times a year teachers should confer about the mental abilities of each children – and then determine the subject best suited to him.
I thought of Vives when two eleven boys were discussing how to answer a challenging eleven plus verbal reasoning question. I had used reasonably formal language to try to explain. I called for help when my explanation did not seem to be understood. The second boy left his mathematics happily and addressed himself to the problem. He saw the solution in a flash. He then started explaining it to the first boy. I was fascinated to hear the language and vocabulary that was used. Boy Number One understood instantly. I was forgotten as both boys returned to their work without even looking towards me for confirmation.
Vives wrote: “The teacher should have an exact knowledge of the vernacular language of the boys so that by that means he may more fitly and easily teach. For unless he uses the right words for the matter with which he is dealing, he will be certain to mislead the boys.”
Many parents will have experienced the twin emotions of frustration and relief when they have tried to explain something to their eleven plus child only for another member of the family to offer a different explanation – which is immediately understood.
“Well Dad, Mum is much better at English than you are. I think you are better at maths – but she has more patience and explains things in words that I understand.”
“Well Mum, Dad is much better at English than you are. I think that you are better at maths – but he has more patience and explains things in words that I understand.”