This paper reports the expectations, concerns and experiences of Peruvian children from four contrasting districts during their transition from primary to secondary school. The children who participated in this study were aged 11 to 13 years old and were part of Young Lives, a longitudinal study of childhood poverty in four countries. They were visited in two consecutive years to capture different views before, during and after the transition process. Qualitative methods were used to elicit the views of children themselves, as well as those of their parents and teachers.
The study found that children do identify a series of changes related to the different organisation and pedagogical approach in secondary schools: these are seen by children both as a difficult challenge in academic and social terms, but also as an opportunity to enjoy more freedom and autonomy and to grow up and progress in their educational careers. The study also highlights the importance of peer relationships as sources of academic and emotional support in making this transition. We argue that, to fully understand this transition, it is necessary to situate it within a particular discourse about the role of education in children's narratives, in order to contextualise this moment and its importance in relation to children's personal and family aims. The social and cultural meanings associated with education are related to a particular view of progress, upward mobility and modernisation, which involves becoming a professional and living in the city, and thus a major change in identity, especially for rural children. In this way, the research shows how the meanings associated with education sustain children's transition through the school system and their expectations for the future.