Exam Time

Why transition year should not be mandatory in schools

In recent years, there has been a massive increase in the amount of second level students who have opted to skip Transition Year and enter the Leaving Cert curriculum straight away. However, there are still some schools who insist on transition year and make it close to impossible for students to skip and move ahead with their studies, and I think this is very wrong.
Realistically, transition year is not suited to everyone. Many students do not wish to spend an extra, and arguably unnecessary, year in secondary school and it should be every students right to make this decision.
The idea of transition year rests upon a belief that every student is the same and learns in the same way, which is obviously incorrect. Some students may suit a year which is lighter with academic stress. I can see why many students may need a year to focus on themselves, their personal life or their health after the Junior Cert, and the ease of academic pressure may be hugely beneficial. I have heard many cases of students using the year to focus on their weaker subjects and preparing themselves for the upcoming Leaving Cert. If a student sees transition year as a more beneficial choice, that is completely understandable.
However, the right to choose is necessary in every school. Many students may be eager to move on with their studies. Transition year can be very lax and unproductive in some cases, and some students find it really demotivating. It can bring a student out of the academic routine due to lack of homework or no need to study, and consequently makes it more difficult to work to the best of one’s ability when they enter Fifth Year.
“I really wish [Transition Year] had been optional in my school. I found it to be demotivating and, honestly, really boring. While work experience and random workshops were valuable, we didn’t need an entire year for it. I spent the whole year wishing I could have gone ahead to fifth year. Some people in my year still feel unmotivated from the year, just a couple of months before the Leaving Cert,” Sixth Year student Muireann Lynch (18) says.
In my school, transition year was close to impossible to skip. If you had been left back a year and were the same age as a typical Fifth Year student, it was an easier process. If this was not the case, you had to appeal to the Board of Management and go through a very lengthy and stressful process to have your request considered, and many students were still refused. There were two other schools in my town in which transition year wasn’t optional under any circumstances. One cannot deny that this was completely unfair.
Journalism and New Media student Ciara Ferguson (20) was unable to attend her local secondary school, as transition year was mandatory there. “I moved from England to Galway when I was 10, and was kept back a year in school because of this. Being a year older than the rest of my year meant that skipping fourth year was important to me. My local school wouldn’t let me skip the year, and I was forced to travel almost an hour out of my way to attend a school that would. My parents had to drive me to and from the school daily, which was a huge inconvenience on them too. It was ridiculous,” Ciara says.
There are many students who are eager to move on from secondary school. Some students have a negative experience in school and may experience frequent bullying, high levels of stress and anxiety, or may be generally unsuited to the Irish education system. Some students need to move on to Third Level more than others and they should have a right to do so.
Photography student Laura Watson (19) was fighting to skip transition year in her school but her request was denied, and the negative impact of this caused her to drop out. “My time in transition year lead me to develop a disregard for authority figures, which was so out of character for me.”
“My depression became much more severe as well and I couldn’t bring myself to leave the house because I dreaded going into school and taking part in a program I didn’t want to be in. I even developed brief acrophobia because I wasn’t able to leave the house and was doing nothing all day,” Laura continued.
Many people bring to question whether or not a student is mature enough to move on to college a year early, as skipping transition year means that some students may be seventeen when starting college. A popular view is that which sees seventeen year old students as too young and immature to move out, begin living independently and being totally in charge of their own decision making.
“I was 17 when I started college and I don’t regret it. I was ready to go when I did. My school had a good transition year program and most of my friends decided to do transition year, but I knew I wasn’t a very dependent person and could cope on my own. I had a clear vision of what I want to pursue and study in university so that was probably the biggest reason that I skipped the year,” UL student Kathleen O’Sullivan says.
“Fourth year can make or break you, to be honest. Some people mature and grow during the year, but I found that entering the Leaving Cert course after a total doss year gave me a massive amount of excess stress,” says Sarah Deed (19).
“Transition year definitely ‘matured’ me, in the sense that I feel too grown up to still be in school and I’m sick of spending my first year of adulthood asking permission to use the toilet and getting in trouble for wearing white shoes,” Muireann continued.
I skipped transition year and started in University of Limerick when I was 17. I moved out of home for the first time and was thrown in to manging myself financially, emotionally, physically and academically. I do not see my age as having been an disadvantage. I knew I was mature enough to do this and I have no regrets. It allowed me to better myself and grow mentally, and it is definitely one of the best decisions I have ever made.
I am aware that there are some schools in the country which do not offer transition year, and every student is forced to go straight from the Junior Cert to fifth year. I disagree with
this as well. I am emphasising our right to have the choice in every school. We cannot deprive a student of their right to choose their academic pathway.
It is completely unreasonable to force a student to partake in an optional year that may be of no advantage to them, or even worse could hinder their performance in school. I believe that it is crucial we make Transition Year optional in every secondary school.
“Transition year is unique to everyone. It’s unfair to make it compulsory. I know many people who benefited from doing it and thoroughly enjoyed it but everyone I know who chose to skip the year is equally pleased,” Kathleen added.
We all deserve a right to have agency over our academic pathways, and no authority should deprive us of that choice.