Rites of Passage in Rafoarty: Curriculum Continuity and Transition from Primary to Post-primary in an Irish Town.
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AbstractLiterature on student transition between primary and post-primary illustrates that how schools integrate students and choose to organize teaching and learning supports or contributes to transition difficulties for students. This qualitative study finds that despite statements in official documentation that curriculum continuity exists because it is built into curriculum design, it in fact does not exist in sixth class primary and first class post-primary teacher classroom practice. Local curriculum structures influence teacher classroom practise and affect the continuity of students’ educational experience. The existence of a dominant curriculum orientation towards academic rationalism influences the patterns of relationships that exist between and within schools. It is a culture dominated by compliance with historical processes and educational cultural legitimacy between schools, teachers and students. The enquiry was undertaken as a qualitative case study using semi structured interviews with teachers and principals and focus groups with students. While numerous Irish educational reports identify the importance o f transition there are deficiencies in the directions they take to address the problems they have identified. The real issues around transition for students arise out of the failure of primary and post-primary schools to reorganize their structures in how they educate early adolescents. The structural processes of educating students in individual schools are influenced by the culture of the school, its notion of what curriculum is and whether education is understood and approached as a continuum. While primary and post-primary schools, in this study, have little shared sense of educational purpose the teaching of sixth class primary and first class post-primary contain similar instructional methods. This deficit of purpose and similarity of instruction is 2 due to how schools share in national ‘socio-cultural-political processes that shape the content and orientation of curriculum, and legitimize what good teaching practices are, and to what ends’ (Callan 2006, p.7). Students experience schooling problems rather than transitional problems in such educational environments.