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Monday, February 20, 2012

Eleven Plus Responsibility

Back in 1964, Austwick, in his book on `Teaching Machines and Programming’, maintained that programming led to a much more detailed study of subject matter. This then meant that there needed to be a precise consideration of the type of student for which the programme was intended. Austwick argued that children in primary schools, grammar and technical institutions would all need different programmes. “The work would need to be appropriate for the development of mental structures and abilities of children for whom the programme is prepared.”

The Eleven Plus examination tries to select children who are all academically around the same level – in spite of different backgrounds and foundations. The actual eleven plus test, however,  is a pen and paper exercise – so however much the child has been prepared with on-line exercises and tests – in the actual examination most candidates will have to pick up their pencils and start completing multiple choice tests. (There are some variations to multiple choice tests in some schools.)

After a child has reached a level of competence then much eleven plus work can become repetitive and rather mechanical. Some parents may strive to make work on papers and eleven plus exercises rather more palatable. In an ideal world an eleven plus child would sometimes want to study on his or her own. This would enable parents to feel that they were not drillmasters but were sharing in the eleven plus experience.

The wise old man called Skinner in an extract called `Teaching Machines’ (1961) wrote:

“In assigning mechanizable functions to machines, the teacher will emerge in his proper role as an indispensable human being”.

Some parents would be grateful for a paraphrase of Skinner’s statement:

“In encouraging my child to take more responsibility for eleven plus work I will emerge in my proper role as a parent and an indispensable human being”.