02 SES 03 B, Transitions: Becoming and Being
At the end of compulsory education German pupils need to decide whether to continue with school in order to achieve a higher school leaving certificate or to immediately begin an apprenticeship leading to a vocational qualification. Despite a less tight apprenticeship market in recent years, young people choosing the latter option still face difficulties in transitioning into apprenticeships because employers tend to prefer applicants with higher educational attainment for the apprenticeship places they offer.
Pupils who are aware of these difficulties might reconsider their intentions to search for an apprenticeship and instead continue their education at school to improve their chances for an apprenticeship place later on. Others might be forced by an ambitious social environment to strive for a higher school leaving certificate. Thus they will choose continuing with school as a realistic option even if their idealistic wish was to directly begin an apprenticeship. According to Prenzel et al. (1996) and Deci and Ryan (2000), positive outcomes of learning on satisfaction, learning quality and comprehension, and identity-development only occur, if the learner is intrinsically motivated, i.e. if he learns because he is interested in the learning contents and it is his own decision to learn. A pupil who feels forced by his parents to continue his general education despite his desire to begin an apprenticeship is neither self-determined nor interested in continuing school. Someone who has discovered that he needs a higher school leaving certificate in order to obtain a desired apprenticeship place is probably equally disinterested in the school curriculum, even if he acts by his own decision – although on closer inspection he is more or less forced by the apprenticeship market or regulations to choose this pathway. Either way, both cases cannot be labelled as being fully intrinsically motivated (cf. Deci & Ryan, 2000), and this can have negative effects on future school performance or satisfaction.
This contribution therefore seeks to identify factors that differentiate between pupils who see their idealistic wish for beginning an apprenticeship also as a realistic option and those that have diverging idealistic and realistic aspirations.
Ample theoretical work and research exist on factors influencing the choice of educational pathway or profession. It is assumed that these factors also have an influence on whether a pupil modifies his educational aspirations by abandoning an idealistic wish for an apprenticeship in favour of a prolonged general education at school.
With regard to vocational choice, one line of research focuses on young people’s personality, interests (e.g. Holland, 1966) and abilities (e.g. Super, 1953). Sociological research examines the influence of the social environment; for example Bourdieu (1987) explains that a person makes vocational choices in accordance with the social background she was socialized in, and Boudon (1984) reflects on the intergenerational reproduction of the social status, which leads to young people seeking to attain the educational level their parents hold. Gottfredson’s (1996) theory of circumscription and compromise integrates personal factors like interests and abilities and the influence of the social environment and its different actors. However, educational and professional choices are not independent of institutional restrictions like the lack of supply of available apprenticeship places (cf. Heinz & Krüger, 1985).
We therefore expect that a change in aspiration in the form of an idealistic wish for an apprenticeship but a realistic orientation towards a continued general education at school is related to 1) sociodemographic variables, 2) personal factors like school performance and personality, 3) aspects of the social environment, and 4) perceptions of chances of success in the apprenticeship market.
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