Volume 19 (2012)
Students' Image of the Eleven Plus: Implications for Identity, Motivation, and Education Policy
This article seeks to add students' voices to the current discourse on the usefulness of narrowly focusing national assessment results on the establishment of merit as the basis for secondary school selection, and the impact that this practice has on students' image of schooling. This is in view of the fact that this practice remains a policy in many countries, including countries of the Anglophone Caribbean. Using a qualitative case study design and a framework that integrates motivation, identity, metaphor, and world view theories, this study solicited and analysed the views of 40 primary school students from Belize on their Eleven Plaus examination experience. The study revealed that the students did not feel that the examination had the type of negative psychological effects on them that some parents and educators claim, partly because they did not perceive the national assessment as a high-stakes test. Instead, students used some entailments of the metaphor of the examination as a race - with the pain of training for, the anxieties of starting, and the joys of finishing the race - to make sense of their experiences in preparing for, writing, and receiving the results of the examination. The study also found that the Eleven Plus experience does, however, play a key role in motivating students to stay in school longer, and in the formation of a type of student identity that facilitates the integration of the students' view of self with such content universals as fear of failure and learned helplessness, as well as the Protestant temporal ethnic of future orientation. There was no evidence, however, to suggest that the experience helped students to have a better sense of place or of what it means to be a postcolonial citizen i an independent Belize. It is recommended that more must be done to ensure that policy makers and parents listen to what students are saying and "take more serious notice."
Keywords: Entrance Examinations; Primary School Students; Eleven Plus Examination; Student Attitudes; Student Motivation; Self Concept; Educational Policies; Belize