Having a desk to work at, good grades and high expectations from parents, as well being happy at school, are key factors in encouraging children to go on to university, a study suggests.
Researchers in Croatia found these influences were more important than class size, school, average grades at the school or the wealth of an area.
And they say this suggests schemes to raise aspirations should be targeted at an individual rather than school level.
The study covered over 1,000 pupils.
Researchers from the Institute for Social Research, in Zagreb, asked 1,050 pupils aged 13, 14 and 15 at 23 schools in the city:
- whether they would like to continue to higher education
- about their parents’ aspirations for them
- what level of academic support they received from each of their parents
- whether they had their own room, computer and desk
- whether they enjoyed school
The researchers also gathered data on the pupils’ academic grades, as well as on the size of each school and its classes, the average grade for each school and property prices in the local area.
They found none of the school-level factors had any influence on the pupils’ desire to continue to higher education.
But several factors related to parents and home life did.
Gender was also found to play a part, with the girls more likely than the boys to want to progress to university study.
High academic grades, however, were the strongest predictor of the pupils’ desire to continue to higher education.
Enjoying school was also an important factor.
The report says: “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.
“An important finding arising from the present study 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).
“From an equal-opportunity standpoint, it is encouraging that parental employment and educational status did not predict pupils’ aspirations.”
But the researchers acknowledge the vast majority of parents in the research sample were employed and lived in Zagreb, which is the country’s capital city and a university centre.
“It should be stressed that it is possible that different predictors would behave differently for pupils living in rural areas and smaller cities without higher education institutions, where lower socioeconomic status represents a greater obstacle for pursuing educational goals,” they say.
The paper is published in the journal Educational Studies.