14 SES 14, Educational Transitions in Times of Uncertainty
Transitions within and between more or less institutionally defined pathways have been studied abundantly within the life course paradigm (Elder, Johnson and Crosnoe, 2003; Sapin, Spini and Widmer, 2007).
Considering young population, many of these studies point out the complexity of contemporary young people’s lives, as progression into adulthood has become increasingly prolonged, fragmented and largely unpredictable (Brooks, 2009; Bois-Reymond and Chisholm, 2006).
However, the analytical focus of this paradigm has mainly been oriented towards youth transitions to adulthood and their (un)planned consequences, experienced further along the life course (in which leaving school is an important point of departure). As a consequence, it has left childhood and adolescence (where so many decisive events and choices actually take place) as a rather grey area (Pappámikail, 2004).
Indeed, childhood and adolescence are particularly framed by institutional demands on account of attendance at school, which submits individuals to compulsory calendars that act upon their life experiences. Due to the generalization of schooling and its transformation into the most legitimized form of social validation, schools become the (only) right place to prepare future life projects. In fact, the educational institution invites pupils and students to invest in their studies, to achieve “successful” academic transitions and has a leading role in introducing the need to project themselves into the future. The purpose of the pupils’ families, and especially parents, seems to converge (Zanten, 2009; Vieira, 2009), as they push (from a very early age) their children forward to project themselves into adult calendars in order to succeed in the school “trials”. Long term projects, fixed to a greater or lesser degree, are the aim (Reay and Ball, 1998).
However, some pupils are not able to reach that goal, and are invited to make a transition to some schooling paths specialized in low-attainment academic population (the end-of-the-line schools) that exist, in various forms, at most of the educational systems in Europe. How is then built their future (plans), in such educational contexts? Others, in contrast, experience transitions between schooling paths (either at secondary education or at university) as a result of an exploration process related to the search of authenticity and therefore, to the possibility of self-accomplishment through a vocational option (Aguilés et al., 2012). In that case, reversibility, that is, (re)composing their vocations and choices, changing academic paths, is the adopted solution.
In sum, a complex plurality of youth transitions to adulthood occurs within the educational system due to the fact that the obligation to attend school, for increasingly longer periods of time –at least at the European context - has transformed schooling into a crucial part of any young person's biography. Schools (and higher education institutions) become therefore an important stage to analyse youth transitions, their meanings and calendars, as well as the role played by “significant others” (families, teachers, peers) in the pupils or students’ experiences.
Aguilés, A., Vieira, M.M., Dobón, F., Almeida, A.(2012). Más que abandono de estudios, trayectorias de reubicación universitaria. Aproximación comparada al caso español y portugués. Revista Lusófona de Educação, vol.21, nº21, 139-162 Bois-Reymond, M. , Chisholm, L. (eds.) (2006).The modernization of youth transitions in Europe. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. Brooks, R. (ed.) (2009).Transitions from education to work: new perspectives from Europe and beyond, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan Elder, G., Johnson, M. and Crosnoe, R., (2003), 'The Emergence and Development of Life Course Theory', in Mortimer, J.T. and Shanahan, M.J. (eds), Handbook of the Life Course, New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers: 3-22.l. Pappámikail, L., (2004), 'Relações Intergeracionais, Apoio Familiar e Transições Juvenis para a Vida Adulta em Portugal: Valores, Representações e Projectos', Sociologia, Problemas e Práticas, CIES, 46: 91-116. Reay, D. and Ball, S., (1998), 'Making their Minds Up: Family Dynamics of School Choice', British Educational Research Journal, 24 (4): 431-448 Sapin, M., Spini, D. and Widmer, E., (2007), Les Parcours de Vie: De l’Adolescence au Grand Âge, Lausanne: Savoir suisse Vieira, M.M., (2009), 'A Backstage Look at Student Self-determination: The Role of Parents and Schooling Options', in Resende, J. and Vieira, M.M. (eds), The Crisis of Schooling? Learning, Knowledge and Competencies in Modern Societies, Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing: 103-114. Zanten, A.V., (2009), Choisir son École, Paris: PUF.
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