Off the fence
Opinion can often be divided on the issue of Transition Year and its place in the Irish education system and those opinions can often be polarised. Some feel it is a waste of time, and money perhaps, but having completed the year last year I can honestly say it is a very worthwhile year for most students.
Transition Year (TY) was first introduced in secondary schools in September 1994. TY’s main purpose is to give students a break, a much needed break from the pressures of homework and study, especially after the dreaded Junior Cert.
Skipping the year means the student faces into fifth year which is not as easy going into as some might think. Having a year to research and think about what subjects students want to do allows them to relax and makes the transition into the senior cycle easier. These are the subjects that could decide what college courses are taken and future paths are followed.
TY also brings up new and exciting activities. Students get the opportunity to express themselves more, through musicals, concerts and various stage productions. Students reveal different talents they never knew they had and discover new interests and hobbies. It helps coax the more reserved out of their ‘shell’ and helps build character. Trips away from school add to the fun that is TY. The year helps students build self-confidence and grow.
Another aspect of Transition Year is that it allows younger students and some of the older students as well to mature and grow up. New skills can be developed in this time, goals become clearer and decisions made much easier. They enter college life, more prepared and grown up. It does not seem right that so many teenagers are beginning third level education and not even eighteen years of age.
A major part of Transition Year is the chance to gain work experience. This is carried out at different times of the year and for certain lengths of time. This can be the most enjoyable part of the year for some and gives the participant an insight into life outside the classroom and into everyday, working life. Finding the right work experience means students will get to see if the job they hope for is the right one for them.
Studies by the Department of Education have shown that students who participate in Transition Year, gain between 20 and 40 points more than those who went straight into fifth year.
All in all, a lot depends on your school and the Transition Year programme it provides. If you are still uncertain about what to do, contact the school and ask. Most schools hold an open information evening for parents. At the end of the day, the student must make an effort and use Transition Year as a stepping stone towards Leaving Cert. You will get out of it what you put in.
Jack Deane is a fifth year student at Our Lady’s Secondary School in Belmullet and was on work experience at The Mayo News.