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Dear parents, please do not fear gap years!


Sudhakar Jeeva

Nov 11, 2020

(With inputs from Teena Thomas and Mihika Shankar)

Most learners will agree that their families are as much part of their education as their teachers and peers. The attitudes and beliefs they hold in this regard indeed influence the directions we grow in. A few of us come from families where there is an openness towards exploration, curiosity and unconventional methods of learning. However, there are also learners who clamour for the modes of learning they crave and deserve.

As we have been discussing the concept of gap years all month on the Beyond 8 blog, let us use it as the case in point in this post. Not many parents, especially in India, will be completely comfortable when their teen sits them down and reveals an interest in stepping off the academic bandwagon and exploring the world themselves. In a culture like ours, a gap in academic pursuits is often looked at with resistance and inhibition - mostly because they are not exposed to the abundant benefits of a gap year. They view it as a lack of interest and focus, an aberration in the process of education. Cultural differences and financial constraints also play an undeniable role in nurturing a prejudice towards the gap year.

In the attempt to persuade more parents to open their minds towards their children to pursue a gap year after high school, here are a few points we would like to raise!

Maybe we should stop referring to gap years the way we do currently

The very words we use to speak about a gap year could be problematic. When we say we are ‘taking a year off’, it is only natural for parents to think of it with scepticism. Contrary to the belief that learners are likely to lose their hard-earned study skills after a year off, this period is actually when learners enrich their learning even further. What better time to delve deep into their verticals of interest with apprenticeships and volunteering. Each person they meet and learn from will only add to their rich network of people. That said, wouldn’t it be more appropriate to say ‘taking a year on’?

Gap years do not diminish a student’s academic performance

Studies have shown that students that take a gap year before college usually perform better in academics. When they invest their time in experiences outside the classroom, they are more likely to encounter their true calling and even develop the required skills to pursue it as their chosen professions.

There is no winning in the rat race

For someone who is willing and passionate about learning, it is a gift that keeps giving irrespective of one’s age or background. This truth is often lost amidst the fervour to endlessly be part of a rat race or worse, to win it. One of the most prominent fallacies that parents hold about gap years is that it will set them back in the race to complete their education, while their peers will be far ahead of them. However, nothing can be further than the truth. Falling behind chronologically is a small trade-off in comparison to the depth of knowledge and experience they would have gained. When we begin to place more emphasis on collaboration, rather than competition, it may become easier to welcome gap years into our education systems.

Normalizing gap years could boost your child’s employability

The youth unemployment rate 22.85% recorded by India in 2018 reflects on the reality of an educationally qualified but professionally incompetent young population . The potential of a gap year to bring down this rate to ensure a successful economy may come as a surprise to many. A gap year equips the learner with a range of experiences and a better perspective of the world around them. It prepares the students for real life and not just for higher education, helps them to manage and understand priorities in future. The ability to be self-directed helps the learners to stand apart from the crowd, who rush through college for the sake of a degree. A gap year caters to the parents’ aspirations for their kids to grow and develop into multidimensional people who are aware of their place in the world and can deal with whatever life throws at them.

The conventional education system which thrives on the obedience and discipline of the learners, views gap year as a digression from the acceptable norms. The autonomy vested on the learner to explore and choose their career path is frowned upon by traditional education which expects the learners to fit into the mould. The one-year gap after high school equips the student with self-confidence and courage to know and define oneself, to decide what one truly wants and what career to pursue.

Your children need your support

When a child expresses an interest in taking up a gap year, it is worth appreciating the fact that he or she has the courage and conviction to speak up for their passions in the face of societal pressure. Rather than dismissing the idea completely, it could help parents to have a conversation on the motivations behind it. Patience and perseverance are important virtues children learn from their parents, especially when modelled to them at home, during challenging conversations. Therefore, lending a supportive ear can strengthen the bond between parents and their children too and make them feel like everyone is on the same side during this exciting journey.

From our own experience with the Bridge Program offered at Beyond 8, gap years are not meant to be viewed with apprehension, rather they need to be embraced for the sake of children who want to experience life more deeply than others.

Parents, have your children ever come to you with an interest to take a gap year? We would love to hear your thoughts and concerns in the comments below - our experts at Beyond 8 will be happy to address them.

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