School-leavers should get a gap-year

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.

Reference:  College students fill gap year with meaning.
Worth(lessness) of an MBA


2 Responses

  1. I surely think this is a great idea and plan to help my kids (if ever I have someday) realize why they should take some time off and decide.

    But unconventional ideas takes some time to sink in.

  2. I would like to have taken time off to travel in the world, engage in some social work, other, after I graduated college and before I started work, but faced with the obligation of paying for my small student loan then (’50’s) compared to what students pay today, I felt I must go directly to work. I thought I knew what I wanted to do when I enrolled, but given we all took pretty much a basic course of general education classes, we had a year or so to find our way. I changed my major at the end of the first period and never regretted it. Mid-life returning to graduate school I entered a related but different area of the same general major — considerably different requirements than when I had been in school twenty years earlier given the growth in the field.

    Given the decline of the middle class in the USA now, you must be speaking of the children of the 1% who are able to support their children to take off for three years after high school before starting college. But, maybe some high school graduates could go off and live by “the seat-of-their-pants” (meagerly on little or no income or with an unsure source of income in a country where they might not even have acquired the language.) Would be a definite learning experience and could be quite exciting. Not sure I would have wanted my children to do that after high school, but after college would have been different.

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