Teenagers and parents disagree about college plans

13-year-olds hold lower expectations than their parents about their educational career, according to new ESRI research based on Growing Up in Ireland data. The majority of young people in Ireland now make the transition to higher education after leaving school. However, after the transition to second-level education, only half of young people say they expect to go on to higher education. In contrast, over three-quarters of their mothers expect them to go to university or an institute of technology.

Young people hold higher expectations if they have mothers with a degree and where they have done well at primary school. Those with a special educational need have much lower expectations than their peers, even taking account of other factors. Teenagers hold higher expectations if they settle in well to second-level education and have good relationships with their teachers there. Young people who have more positive interaction with their teachers, being praised or given positive feedback, have higher expectations, while those who have negative interaction (being given out to often) hold lower expectations.

Parents hold much higher expectations for their daughters than their sons. Parents who themselves have been to higher education expect the same for their children, with a very large gap in expectations between mothers with a postgraduate degree and those with Junior Certificate or lower qualification. Parents of young people with a special education need hold much lower expectations for their children than the 13-year-olds do for themselves.

The article author, Emer Smyth, said: “Young people at 13 are still settling into second-level education and feel some self-doubt about how they’re doing as learners. It is important that they are given early access to guidance at school so that they don’t limit their future pathways by taking subjects or subject levels they later regret. This is especially important for young people whose family has less insider knowledge of the educational system.”