Monday, 8 February 2010
Sieving out the scruff
The airwaves are full of much information and comment on the Transfer Test (don't mention the 11+), with suggestions as to how it could be improved NEXT year. As someone who's had four children pass through (and pass) the 11+, I have strong views on the subject.
1. The 11+ and related transfer tests such as those administered this year do NOT measure intelligence. Two things should clue us into this massive fact. One, teachers have their children practise 11+-type tests for a full year - or more - because they know this will improve the children's chances of success. Can intelligence be improved in this way? Obviously not or it wouldn't be intelligence. Therefore the 11+ and its contemporary reincarnation don't measure intelligence. Two, we hear that children who this year sat both tests - the one run by Catholic schools and the one run by Protestant schools - have in more than one case had results that contradict each other - i.e., very good in one, very bad in the other. Clearly at least one of these tests isn't measuring intelligence.
2. Even if these tests did measure intelligence, that does not provide grounds for having 'bright' children educated in separate schools from their 'less-intelligent ' peers. Teachers manage to teach the 'bright' and the 'less bright' in one primary school and even in one class. Why can't that mixed-ability teaching (if that's what it is) be continued in secondary school? For the same reason that middle-class people don't want 'social housing' built near them (cf the successful efforts by middle-class people in the Culmore Road area of Derry recently to keep out social housing).
3. If 11+-type tests are in fact measures of intelligence, then the middle-class are innately more intelligent than their working-class counterparts, for they have a significantly higher success rate in these tests than their working-class counterpoints.
4. Division of children at eleven (or any other age) is not about ability but about proximity. Middle-class parents simply don't want their children hanging around or even being in the same area as working-class children, for a range of reasons - the working-class youngsters are dirtier, they're coarser in their manners, they use rude language, they've less respect for private property. Oh, and they haven't the same educational or social aspirations as their middle-class counterparts. All of these are interesting reasons but few if any are educational.