Does the Concept of A Break Year Even Exist in India?
A gap year (Break year) is a break from the routine work, say between high school and college or during college or before work or post-graduation. People opt out activities that range across advanced academic courses, extra-academic courses and non-academic courses, such as pre-college physics courses, language studies, learning a trade, art studies, volunteer work, travel, internships, sports, cultural exchanges, work and more.
What is Gap Year?
Gap year originated in the United Kingdom and has spread all across. In the United States, the practice of taking a “year off” has gained enormous popularity. Many universities like Harvard encourage gap year and various organizations have evolved to support students opting for a gap year.
While the gap year has been fairly accepted and practised the world over, it has not had similar effects in India. It is still looked with contempt and uncertainty. There are just a couple of universities like Swaraj University, Mahindra United College World which offers gap year programs. Besides, a handful of volunteer organisations offer programmes in the area of educating street children, volunteering, women empowerment and travel.
In India, parents take care of their children’s education and they insist them to follow a particular path of mainstream education as laid down by the society.
Social Perception of Gap Year in India
Gap year has become a trend that is leaving parents anxious. Ms Simran Chatrath, a sophomore at Amity University mentions that parents feel that their child takes a break year then it is detrimental to their future. She says, “I wanted to take a break year myself and figure out things but could not do so due to the existing pressure I faced from parents, family, friends and my social circle. They considered gap year to be for those who fail their high school or score really less in their examinations. While a few of my friends in the USA have taken a break year and are in fact doing better in their college as they had a period to introspect and come about with clarity”.
It’s observed that students are left with approximately two months gap after their high school examination which is unfortunately used predominantly for the preparation of other entrance examination for college. Simran, also adds that most of the students opt for open learning rather than taking a break. “It seems rather absurd that parents and students are ready to opt for any course and college or even do open-learning rather than taking a gap year to enhance personality”, says Simran.
People have not really grappled the real concept of a break year and do not recognize the need to take a break to enhance their personality and understand one’s potential and interest.
Ms Shipra Malhotra, author and singer from Mumbai believes that a gap year truly does magic. She says, “Both my children took gap years and it’s unbelievable to see the impact that it has had on them. My daughter took a gap year and explored various things like internships, work, teaching, music and this has refined her personality. She got clarity on what she wants to do and she is back on to her studies and the results have increased manifold. It truly redefines and polishes one’s personality”, says, Ms Shipra.
A gap year is all about investment in oneself and will help youth handle various emotional, psychological, physical and social changes with a better understanding.
Ms Kiranjeet Chaturvedi, a writer also reflects similar thoughts. She says, “My son took a break from his college and spent a year doing things that he did not have the time to do earlier. A gap year is important to help you cope better and lets you discover yourself. It’s okay and in fact necessary to take a stop and breathe to figure things out. It’s imperative to have a plan during the gap year so that you can improve your skill sets and personality. My son travelled, did small skill development courses, met with friends, watched movies and relaxed so that he can start afresh when he joins back. A gap year is all about investment in oneself and will help youth handle various emotional, psychological, physical and social changes with a better understanding”.
Ms Kiranjeet also adds that in India the possibility seems less due to existing social stereotypes and narrow-minded thinking. “In the western world, parents and professors, in fact, encourage students to take a gap year to cope up and perform better. It’s very interactive and encouraging but it is not the same in India.”, says Ms Kiranjeet.
Trusting your child is the key. Once you trust them that they will do their best and choose whatever that is close to their heart then you actually let them fly by themselves.
There is a lack of interest and engagement in gap years among students as they do not actually have a choice to choose from. Ms Shipra says, “Parents really need to open up and let their child choose their passion. Parents should be friends with their children discussing various things and guide them under their help rather than imposing views and decisions. Trusting your child is the key. Once you trust them that they will do their best and choose whatever that is close to their heart then you actually let them fly by themselves. If parents grow in this front, kids will have a breathing space and will eventually lead them to perform better”.
Reshma is an intern with SheThePeople.TV