Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

The Transition Year: A Unique Programme in Irish Education Bridging the Gap between School and the Workplace

Academic journal article International Electronic Journal of Elementary Education

The Transition Year: A Unique Programme in Irish Education Bridging the Gap between School and the Workplace

Article excerpt

Introduction

The Transition Year Programme (TYP), also known simply as Transition Year (TY) is truly a unique feature in Irish Education. Based on its significant success over a 40-year period in Ireland, it is surprising that currently, there does not appear to be a programme that compares adequately with it anywhere else in the world. The TYP is "pioneering in an international context with no comparable educational intervention existing in similarly standardised systems" (Smyth , Byrne and Hannan, 2004, p. 7). These authors make reference to the "Seconde" in France which does have some similarities, as an orientation year, to the TYP. They add though, that the French system differs considerably due to nationally prescribed coursework in core academic subjects as well as national evaluation in some subject fields. The Irish Department of Education (DE) describes the TYP as offering pupils

... a broad educational experience with a view to the attainment of increased maturity, before proceeding to further study and/or vocational preparation. It provides a bridge to help pupils make the transition from a highly-structured environment to one where they will take greater responsibility for their own learning and decision making (DE, 1993c, p. 1)

Ireland has a long and noble tradition of respect and concern for education (Coolahan, 2009). This, Coolahan adds, is reflected in the monastic schools, which were seen as the "lights of the north" (p. 8) during the dark ages of Europe. O'Buachalla (1988) describes the developments in Irish education through the 19th century as remarkable particularly when set against the backdrop of economic deprivation and deep political unrest of the times. Educational innovation has been part of Irish education throughout its long and vibrant history. The Irish Education system was traditionally divided into three distinct sectors:

1) Primary Education (8 years, age 5-12)

2) Secondary Education (5 or 6 years, age 12-18)

3) Third Level Education (age 17+)

In the latter decades of the twentieth century and the early twenty first century, the system expanded to include:

§ Pre-school Education (age 3-5)

§ Adult and Further Education

These additions came about as the concept of life-long learning began to gain momentum and the DE tried to meet the demands of a population that was becoming more academically aware and intent on responding to market demands in a rapidly growing knowledge economy.

Second level education in Ireland caters for students from around age 12 years to 18 years. Students commence year one at the age of 12/13 years. The next three years are spent pursuing a programme which ultimately prepares the students for their initial State Examination, namely the Junior Certificate. On completion of the Junior Certificate Examination students can choose one of the following routes:

a) Participate in the Transition Year Programme (a one year programme in year four of a six year cycle)

b) Advance to fifth year and begin the terminal Leaving Certificate programme including its variants Leaving Certificate Applied (LCA) and Leaving Certificate Vocational Programme (LCVP).

c) Leave school, by law having reached the age of 16 years, the current legal minimum age to exit compulsory education in Ireland.

Ever since its introduction over 40 years ago, an increasing number of students are choosing the TY route.

The Transition Year Programme

The TYP first appeared in 1974 when it was offered in just three schools as a pilot programme. It experienced its greatest expansion throughout the 1990s (Smyth, Byrne & Hannan, 2004). Its introduction was brought about by the recognition of the Irish DE, at that time, of the overly academic nature of the senior cycle. The then Minister for Education, Richard Burke, summed it up when he said:

Because of growing pressures on students for high grades and competitive success, educational systems are becoming increasingly academic treadmills. …

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