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Transition debate consider young people’s reality

Transition debate should consider young people’s reality

We need a greater understanding of young people’s experiences if policy on transition is to be effective, according to NZCER researcher Dr Karen Vaughan.

Dr Vaughan is presenting a paper on transition at PPTA’s Charting the Future: the Way Forward for Secondary Education conference in Wellington, entitled: Just Browsing, thanks: Young peoples’ navigation from school.

She says the trend towards more and more young people opting to postpone their careers or change their minds several times about their study, work experience or career options - a phenomenon the OECD calls ‘milling and churning’- parallels the increasing number of pathways available to them.

However, ‘milling and churning’ should be seen not as a barrier to young people getting on with life, she says, but rather as something to be understood by policy makers, schools and employers in order to support students through what are often confusing changes.

“Milling and churning is the way some of these young people cope with the myriad of pathways available to them. It provides them with a variety of work and study experiences while allowing them to process their experiences and choose a work and lifestyle to which they are most suited.

“Asking them to rush their decision-making may be detrimental to young people in the longer term. What is more important is supporting young people through the confusion and changes of heart to help them make the best choices.”

Dr Vaughan has just completed the first interviews in a four-year longitudinal research study on transition involving a series of case studies of about 100 young people as they negotiate the various pathways available to them.

“The young people we’ve interviewed have fascinating views on choice. On one hand the sheer weight of possibilities puts pressure on them to make the best choices. On the other hand the flexibility provided by choice is something they would not do without.”

Karen Vaughan says young people’s tendency to change their minds does not reflect a lack of commitment or focus.

“On the contrary – they are committed to getting qualifications and acquiring the knowledge that will let them make choices.

“However, unlike their parents and grandparents, work is no longer their major source of identity, nor career the driving force in their lives.

“Transition policy needs to put young people’s perspectives at the centre, to acknowledge the different meanings of life events, and that pathways are no longer linear.”

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