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Working at a different level? Curriculum differentiation in Irish lower secondary education. ESRI WP568, July 2017

Smyth, Emer (2017) Working at a different level? Curriculum differentiation in Irish lower secondary education. ESRI WP568, July 2017. [Working Paper]

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    Young people in Irish schools are required to choose whether to sit lower and upper secondary exam subjects at higher or ordinary level. This paper draws on a mixed methods longitudinal study of students in twelve case-study schools to trace the school and student factors influencing take-up of higher level subjects within lower secondary education. School organisation and process are found to shape the extent to which young people actually have a ‘choice’ or whether this is circumscribed by the school they attend or the class group to which they are allocated. Streaming practices, which are more prevalent in schools serving socioeconomically disadvantaged communities, constrain the degree of choice young people have over their subject levels, with those in lower stream classes usually allocated to ordinary level. Even where schools have mixed ability base classes, schools influence access to higher level subjects. In the middle-class and socially mixed schools, teachers are more likely to expect and encourage all students to take higher level, at least for as long as possible. In contrast, in working-class schools, there are sharp declines in the proportion taking higher level subjects as they approach the national exam taken at the end of lower secondary education. Early decisions about not pursuing higher level are found to have long-term consequences by closing off particular pathways for the future. These early decisions are often made in the absence of formal school-based guidance, thus contributing to social inequalities in young people’s destinations. The findings contribute to our understanding of how curriculum differentiation reinforces social class differences in educational pathways.

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    Item Type: Working Paper
    Subjects for non-EU documents: EU policies and themes > Policies & related activities > education policy/vocational training
    Countries > Ireland
    Subjects for EU documents: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Series and Periodicals: UNSPECIFIED
    EU Annual Reports: UNSPECIFIED
    Series: Series > Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI), Dublin > ESRI Working Papers
    Depositing User: Phil Wilkin
    Official EU Document: No
    Language: English
    Date Deposited: 26 Dec 2019 15:20
    Number of Pages: 24
    Last Modified: 26 Dec 2019 15:20

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