Wrong school orientation: a structural problem

School, university and work orientation represent an important step in the path of every student both in the moments of transition between different levels of education and at the moment of entry into the world of work. In the Italian system, there are important critical issues concerning orientation, which are closely linked to early school leaving, the phenomenon of no (not in education, work or education) and the lack of skills.

Various topics related to orientation exist both in middle school, for the choice of high school path, and at the end of high school, for the choice of tertiary education or entry into the world of work. This is a problem because a student who is guided by a quality orientation path will find it easier to find the training and work path that best suits their skills and attitudes, as opposed to those who find themselves without a compass.

Orientation: the state of the art

A first form of guidance, even if unfair, is that of parents, or of one for them. According to the 2020 data from AlmaDiploma, this is first visible when choosing high school. For 22.9% of high school students, parents played a “decidedly relevant” role in choosing high school; this percentage drops to 22.0% for technical institutions and rises to 29.0% for professionals. A second form of orientation takes place in the schools and if no professional figure can take care of it, this task falls on the teachers. Their role is judged to be crucially relevant with 11.3% for high schools, 8.4% for technicians and 15.3% for professionals, a reduced importance compared to parents.

These numbers in themselves are not a problem, but they become so when the economic condition of the family unit dictates the choice of the youngest. For example, for less-loved families, the entry of their children into the world of work may be necessary as soon as possible, and therefore they prefer higher professional paths.

When they enter the high school, students are guided to choose what their path will be after graduation. However, participation in leadership activities in high schools is low and the demand for guidance courses can not be met. In fact, 21.0%, 16.4% and 16.3% of students from high schools, technical and vocational institutes acted independently because the school did not organize any activities. In addition, few of those who participated in educational initiatives believe that they have received adequate information about the world of work: 9.8% for high schools, 24.7% for technical schools and 36.4% for professionals. The same percentages that refer to information on education and training thereafter are instead 20.6%, 26.1% and 33.6%.

The Project Build futures administered a questionnaire to schoolchildren from 13 high schools in Bari and its province in the 2018-19 school year, and according to the responses received, one in four of the students was not satisfied at the time of the election and is motivated to continue all because of the excessive distance from the school that one wanted to visit or because of the burden on the parents’ choice. As for students who developed their dissatisfaction during school, the main reasons are to do with a difference between expectations and reality or with a different awareness of their future. Any symptoms of an orientation that was not done correctly.

(stnazkul – stock.adobe.com)

Finally, as far as uniformity of guidance is concerned, according to data from the National Evaluation System of the Ministry of Education, in addition to an intrinsic variability of different school types, there are no major differences between high schools, technical and vocational institutes. Furthermore, the quality of the orientation does not vary uniformly geographically. Only the activation of orientation paths to understand its own attitudes and inclinations has a large variability between regions (Molise notes the minimum figure of 31.3% and Umbria the best figure with 75.9%). However, these ways are important because they differentiate the concept of competence (which can be learned) from that of aptitude (which is part of the student’s natural predisposition), in order to make every student more aware when he or she chooses his future.

What arises, then, is a structural problem of orientation, in which the lack of activities or paths that provide students with the appropriate tools to make an autonomous informed choice about the next course of study or work is difficult. .

The importance of quality orientation

A qualitative orientation reduces the risk of leaving education early by reducing the uncertainty associated with choices about their future and helping disadvantaged young people regain confidence in their choices. For this reason, it is important that the orientation is properly thought out and designed.

A first element of rigidity is associated with the fact that students at the end of middle school make a first choice about their future. The decision on what kind of path to pursue has significant consequences: as the AlmaDiploma data prove, including the choice whether to study after graduation or not, i.e. at the end of high school, depends on the type of education, which is obtained (high school, technical or professional) and therefore from the choice made in middle school. Therefore, students not only find themselves on a college path that is difficult to get out of when it is not the best for them, but they are oriented and not always optimal.

As highlighted in a report by Igier-Bocconi, the early choice of the type of high school and the specific curriculum represents an element of rigidity that may reinforce the insecurity of students and families at the time of the decision itself. In fact, even if it is possible to get into any university course after graduation in any school, the specificity of the secondary school significantly limits the choice of the next path for most students, and in any case impacts the mismatch of skills . . Therefore, the orientation that is done in the high school is the fundamental basis for that done in the high school. Therefore, it is important that students and families (especially those with low socio-economic backgrounds) have immediate information about all possible choices.

Another distorting element is given by the teachers themselves, who, as Carlana, La Ferrara and Pinotti have proven, are conditional in the orientation of young people towards one type of school compared to the other in relation to the economic and social substrate from which they come (we have also discussed this in our book in Chapter 10). So, for example, the children of migrants, with the same skills and schooling, are very often targeted at vocational institutes rather than high schools. The gap is larger for male students, but reduced by specific tutoring and guidance activities: mainly due to this the proportion of children enrolled in high school increases by 10 percentage points compared to the scenario in which these guidance activities are not performed .

All the evidence presented points in the same direction: both between middle and high schools, as well as between high schools in the world of work or post-diploma training, orientation should be seen as a choice that has long-term consequences. Therefore, it is important to take a firm stand, to understand what are the determinants of the choice of students and families, both in terms of information and expectations. We will explore these aspects in the next two articles of this series.

This article is part of a series of short report “No and orientation” written in collaboration with FAWLTS, a community of around 2000 professionals, with the aim of creating a network of experts from all fields who help to better understand what opportunities exist for young people and to integrate school programs with key topics for the To train citizens of tomorrow.

Also read: Youth and Work: Government’s Plan to Reduce NEETs in Italy (by Sole 24 Ore)

Leave a Comment