Most students have no clear idea of what they want to do with their lives when they leave school. Many have parents take such decisions for them. Whether it is such a good idea is quite another matter. An engineering degree was what most school-leavers went for, till two decades back. Triple E (electrical and electronics engineering) was a sought-after course. I know of a young man who graduated in it with distinction, and, on the strength of academic credentials, he got a placement in Kirloskars, only to give it up after a few months , to go abroad to study visual communication. Film-making is what he wants to do, and he does this on weekends. He holds a day job in the IT sector for bread and butter.
In recent years computer science has been a big draw with academically good students, though it may not be their most favoured field . If a student with high qualifying marks gives up admission in computer science for catering technolgy or commercial arts he/she must be deemed bit of a nut; or she must have an over-riding mind of her own. In my days, 1950s, we pursued an undergrad course, mainly to become eligible to appear in IAS exams. Today, the best and the brightest among our graduates, it appears, pursue higher studies to go abroad or work in India, for Multinationals. But is this the kind of life they would have wanted, if they were the choosers ?
Point is, our education system is so structured that it gives little time or scope for students to consider their options. In the U S they encourage school-leavers to take a year off before joining college. Idea is to let them go out and do their thing; travel the world, if they dare, and can afford it; or get an internship with an NGO, social welfare agency or a charitable trust. Mukti, a charitable organisation in Chennai that provides the needy with artificial limbs, sounds the kind of place where a school-leaver could spend a few meaningful months of internship during the gap year. Internship experience would give students a greater sense of purpose when they do get to college.
The gap-year concept, I reckon, would be a hit with our students. Of parents, I am not so sure. There may be parents who dismiss this as a waste of time. Parental mindset matters, if we want our school-going generation to take to the gap-year practice. Parents take decisions for their school-leaver son/daughter in many of our middle-class households.
Question is: would you want your son/daughter spend a year getting a ‘feel’ of the world before joining college ?
Maybe I would, if colleges were to grant admitted students a year- long deferral (as many universities do in the U S);
If our universities give ‘weightage’ to an applicant’s gap-year experience; and
If companies adopt it as part of the CSR (corporate social responsibility) to fund NGOs, rural welfare and community organisations for gap-year internship of school-leavers.