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Unemployment keeps young in class

IRISH REPUBLIC. Irish students tend to stay on longer in secondary schools than do their Scottish counterparts, according to research into the school-to-work transitions in both countries.

The report, which covers the period 1979 to 1991, says that by 1991 just over 20 per cent of Irish school-leavers left at or before the end of the junior cycle (age 15), compared with more than 40 per cent in Scotland. As a result, Irish school-leavers were older on average, with only 20 per cent being aged 16 or under, while 60 per cent of Scottish school-leavers fell into this age group.

This was reflected, in turn, in the level of qualifications young people had achieved, according to the comparative study carried out by Paula Surridge of the Centre for Educational Sociology, University of Edinburgh, and Emer Smyth of the Economic and Social Research Institute, Dublin.

About 40 per cent of Irish school-leavers had attained the qualification level for entry to higher education, while about 25 per cent of Scottish school-leavers were similarly qualified. The proportion leaving with no or minimal qualifications was 15 per cent in Ireland and close to 30 per cent in Scotland.

Similar patterns of gender and class differences in school-leaving were found in the two countries. Girls and students from non-manual backgrounds were more likely to complete the senior cycle and qualify for higher education, while boys and those from manual backgrounds were more likely to leave school early with fewer qualifications.

The authors conclude that, despite similarities in their education and training systems, the two countries responded differently to rising unemployment among school-leavers in the 1980s. In Ireland the main response involved the mainstream education system - delayed exit from school, the development of school-based vocational courses and expanding provision of higher education.

In Scotland the main strategy has been to expand and restructure out-of-school training provision.

The study is published in the latest issue of the Labour Market Review, published by FAS, the Irish training and employment authority

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