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Sunday, April 21, 2013

Girls and the Eleven Plus

There was a time when the education of girls was modelled on that of their brothers. Furthermore there was no reference to their different functions in society. The pioneers of higher education for women finally secured `equal opportunities’ for women.

There were natural consequences of the Victorian equal opportunities movement where it was felt that women should not continue to be too involved with domestic duties. There were, however, words written along the lines of: a woman should never forget that she is a woman. She must dress like a woman, talk like a woman and walk like a woman.

Women were also exhorted to observe feminine attributes and feminine virtues – and they were expected to build these features into their education. Domestic science, for example, was canned. But people kept seeking for the truth. Questions were raised:

If a woman studies mathematics will she become more accurate in her later life?

If a woman studies history will she have more understanding?

The Grammar School girls were taught academic subjects leaving no time for drawing, music, cookery and house-craft. There were strong feelings that the names of the subject should be changed. Grammar School girls should learn public health, town planning and estate management. This would enable the girls enjoy practical activities in fields that had been previously scorned.

The Hadlow Committee of 1923 maintained that different types of tests – as in intelligence and vocational advice were founded on hypotheses which could not always be trusted.

It was also felt that tests should be developed by recognised experts.

Intelligence tests should be supplements and not substitutes for establishing ability>

It is likely that the roots of eleven plus selection were sown in these observations. Today clever girls and boys sit the same eleven plus examinations. Boys and girls sit the same GCSE and `A’ Level examinations. In theory, both sexes have the same opportunity of entering university life. Life since the Victorian days has moved on!

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