Half of students regret path they chose
Significant difficulties experienced by 80pc of those pupils who went on to further or higher education
Students who had positive relationships with teachers were more likely to stay on in education after leaving school, thereby enhancing their life chances.
The study shows important differences in the extent to which the young people reflected positively on the levels of encouragement and support they received from their teachers.
The social mix of the school had a particularly strong influence, with students in working-class schools less likely to go on to some form of further study.
Middle-class students tended to have fonder memories of their relations with teachers, and were more likely to feel that their teachers held high expectations for them.
Report author Selina McCoy said: "Schools make a significant difference. Aspirations to further and higher education emerge as early as junior cycle, indicating the importance of providing a supportive climate to encourage all students."
The study found that 47pc regretted the path they took after school, reflecting difficulties in finding employment during the recession, not having the CAO "points" to obtain their preferred course, and courses not being what they expected. Some 61pc went on to higher education.
Examples of how the teaching and learning styles at second-level education leave students ill-equipped for the academic demands of college life are highlighted.
About 80pc of those who went on to further and higher education reported significant differences, particularly in relation to the standard expected of them, the difficulty of the course and managing their workload.
Students also contrasted the need to engage in self-directed learning at higher/further education with the more teacher-led approach adopted at school.
Earlier phases of this research threw a spotlight on the transition from primary school, the risk of disengagement among second-years, how the Junior Cert exam was switching students off and the huge stresses experienced by sixth-years.
The findings triggered a range of reforms, such as the overhaul of Junior cycle, starting next month, and changes to the CAO points system, currently under discussion.
Now the ESRI researchers say the proposed junior cycle reforms are a priority as a way of providing positive and engaging school experience for all students.
They say there is a need for a significant broadening of teaching and assessment methods, such as envisaged in the reforms.
One change would see teachers taking on the job of grading their own students for a new-style junior cycle awards, but unions are opposed to the abolition of the State exams and say they will not do the work.
At senior cycle, the report states that students need to be equipped with the kind of skills they need for later learning and work, through greater use of approaches such as project work and team work.
The report notes the value that young people place on specialist guidance, especially on a one-to-one basis, but also highlights the importance of a whole-school approach to guidance, such as advice from teachers on which subjects and levels to study in order to keep options open for the future.
The report also has lessons for further and higher education institutions in relation to the important role support structures play in assisting the transition to further study.
Emer Smyth: Page 27
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