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Transition from School: A Review of Research and its Relation to Policy

Don Anderson

It is important to explore the relation between research and policy and this can be done by reviewing some of the findings of research which have focussed on transition from school. Although the subject has engaged the interests of researchers, particularly psychologists and sociologists, for many years, a sense of urgency has been given to it because of the very high rates of teenage and youth unemployment which have been apparent in many industrially advanced countries since the early 1970s. In response to this, there has not only been an upsurge of research studies, but also a remarkably rapid response in schools with programmes like career education and guidance and counselling services. Governments have also responded with a variety of programmes for education and training, transitional services and, in some instances, job creation. These programmes are not always linked with clearly articulated purposes related to a common policy. That is a point I wish to return to later. There is also a dilemma to explore in the relation of research to policy. Research questions come from a theory which the researcher holds. This theory is a set of assumptions about what the world is like, what the facts are. The researcher seeks evidence to support (or test) his assumptions, but his or her conclusions - facts about the world - were encapsulated in the original questions. How then can these conclusions, part of a circularity, provide the policy-maker with objective facts about the world?

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