Timing of Transition Year

Can anyone tell me why transition year in most schools is held immediately after the Junior Cert and before studying for the Leaving Cert begins?

The word transition comes either from the Latin transire which means to cross over, or from transicion which is a change or passing from one condition to another. Going from Junior Cert to Leaving Cert doesn’t have the sense of passage that is implied by the word transition. A bigger transition for students is that from post-primary education to apprenticeship, work, or college and that is where transition year could be of more benefit for students.

Leading up to the Junior Cert students have established a study pattern, which is broken by the  transition year which typically is structured in a more informal way (students’ performance in transition year is not assessed by a state exam, for example). But if students had their transition year after the Leaving Cert, it could prepare them in a meaningful way for the transition from school to life after school, whether that be in work, in an apprenticeship or in college. The year could be a kind of psychosocial moratorium for the students.

The advantages for students that I can see with having transition year after the Leaving would be:

  1. The curriculum could be better tailored to students’ needs. Students planning on entering the workforce could practise interview skills, for example, whereas students planning on third level education could develop their study skills.
  2. Being more mature and having a realistic sense of what further study or work options are open to them, students could choose work experiences that are likely to be meaningful and relevant to them. They could also take a more active role in designing their transition year experience.
  3. The pressure would be off college-bound students because they would know how many CAO points they had earned so they could relax and invest themselves more into real educational experiences.
  4. Third level colleges could give incentives to students who are interested in a specific course by giving some recognition to a relevant work placement rather than allocating places solely on Leaving Certificate points.
  5. Because students would be more mature, they would benefit more from the transition year and leave school with better memories than having just completed a pressurised exam.

Teacher unions might be concerned that if transition year was placed at the end of post-primary school, students would be reluctant to do it. But once schools and graduates demonstrate the benefits of the year, colleges and workplaces would soon make it a requirement for entry.

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