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Research report

The transition to secondary school

The transition from primary to secondary school can be problematic for many young people. This is the conclusion reached by a team of researchers from Université de Montréal, funded by the Persévérance et réussite scolaires concerted action program, a joint initiative of the Ministère de l'Éducation, du Loisir et du Sport (MELS) and the Fonds de recherche du Québec – Société et culture (FRQSC). The results of their study show that most students experience a marked decrease in motivation for studying, reading and mathematics after entering secondary school. Girls, "at risk" students and those from disadvantaged backgrounds are the most strongly affected. Furthermore, many students of both sexes encounter significant difficulties in adapting to their new school environment, while the development of their reading and mathematics skills continues at a slower pace.

Most students experience a marked decrease in motivation  after entering secondary school.

The same study indicates, however, that certain measures put in place by a school board in the Montréal region greatly minimized—but did not completely eliminate—the negative effects of the transition. Some of these measures were intended for teaching staff: better harmonization of teaching practices in Grade 6 and Secondary 1, common training programs on transition-related issues provided as part of a university continuing education program, better communication with parents, and a homework monitoring system. Other measures were aimed at students: program of familiarization and orientation activities, creation of reserved areas within the school, targeted interventions to support students with an academic delay, personalized follow-up of intervention plans developed in elementary school for students at risk.

However, the effectiveness of these measures is limited by certain characteristics of secondary schools, which tend to be large and impersonal institutions where it is more difficult for young adolescents to establish close relationships with adults.


Main researcher: Roch Chouinard, Université de Montréal

Original title: La transition au secondaire et l'incidence de mesures de soutien sur la motivation, l'adaptation psycho-sociale et les apprentissages des élèves

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