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Half of students are disappointed with choices by 21

Forget about the midlife crisis - half Irish students are disappointed with their choices by the age of 21.

The vast majority - over 90pc - of higher education students surveyed said their learning experience was "very different" to school, with most saying that school didn't prepare them enough for the experience.


And 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.

New insights into the experiences of Irish teenagers as they make the transition from second-level education are contained in a report from the Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).

The report outlines that third level education is difficult in terms of its standards, workloads and course difficulties.

The 'social mix' of a school is also said to have a strong influence on the decision to continue education or training.

For the first time, researchers have been able to make a link between students' experience at second-level and their post-school outcomes.


While students place a high value on one-to-one guidance, a recent survey found that 200 schools - almost one in three - are not offering this service because of education cutbacks.

The report explores long-term effects of school experiences and shows just how much difference a school makes in the lives of children.

'Leaving School in Ireland: A Longitudinal Study of Post-School Transitions' represents the final phase of ESRI research, started over a decade ago, tracking the same group of students from first year all the way to the Leaving Certificate, and beyond.

Middle class students tended to have fonder memories of their relations with teachers, and more likely to feel that their teachers held high expectations.

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 ESRI researchers say there is a need for a significant broadening of teaching and assessment methods, such as envisaged in the reforms. And they said higher education institutions need to support the transition to further study.