elementary school
New study debates the role of elementary school experiences. Source: Stem T4L/ Unsplash

The elementary or primary school one attends has minimal influence on whether a pupil progresses to higher education or not, a new study has found.

Conducted by Josip Šabić and Boris Jokić at the Centre for Educational Research and Development of the Institute for Social Research in Zagreb, and supported by the Croatian Science Foundation, the study aimed to find out which factors affected pupils’ intention to continue to higher education as they reach the end of elementary school.

It revealed that none of the school-level factors, including school and class size or grade point average of the school, had any influence on the desire to continue to higher education.

“The major finding arising from the present study is that none of the school level variables used in our analysis contributes to the explanation of pupils’ aspirations for higher education. In other words, pupils who have similar individual characteristics but attend different schools will likely hold similar aspirations for higher education.

elementary school

Does the type of school a child attends influence their higher education progress? Source: NeONBRAND/Unsplash

To uncover children’s aspirations, the researchers asked just over 1,000 pupils at 23 elementary schools in Zagreb to complete three separate questionnaires during their last two years at elementary school. Pupils complete elementary schools in Croatia around the age of 14 or 15. They then progress to secondary school for a four-year diploma, which qualifies them to apply for university, or a three-year diploma, which prepares them for work but not to apply to university.

“Another important finding is that parents can influence their child’s aspirations by expressing their expectations regarding the child’s educational path and by providing the basic conditions for completing homework and learning (ie. a desk to work on),” says Šabić.

When selecting an elementary school to send their child, parents often evaluate factors that would affect whether their child will do well in this school and set them on a path towards college. For instance, after attending the chosen school, they might question if their child will have a higher chance of getting scouted for elite colleges or universities or if a school’s statistics show impressive academic progression rates.

An essential part of every school selection, parents want to know what the return of an academic investment will be, especially if exceedingly high tuition rates are involved.

However, the new study revealed that schools are less influential than previously thought. Instead, factors related to parents and home life, including “parental aspirations, academic support from their mother and having a desk to work,” are what affects pupils’ higher education plans.

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