Is taking a gap year during pandemic recommended? Experts weigh in

Taking a gap year after high school is a common occurrence among students in Western countries. They usually take time off from school to develop or nurture their interests and skills, including creating a portfolio.

However, this was not a very popular choice in India. In fact, this is something that is treated as a “silent topic” and children are usually discouraged from opting for a gap year.

“The negative perception of the gap year is quite ingrained in Indian higher education and it shows in the attitudes of parents, teachers and even schools.

Historically, the education systems in India encouraged students to complete their qualifications without any gaps and to view education as a linear progression. Supply and demand of educational services are way out of line, so waiting for admission was not seen as the right course. As it was thought that procrastination would increase competition and thereby decrease opportunities,” explains Sonya Ghandy Mehta, director of Pathways World School, Aravali.

However, the rise of technology and the coronavirus pandemic have affected this thought process, Mehta adds. “People have now come to believe that young adults can consider taking the time to think about the way forward and develop skills that can give the learner insight and preparedness, and help them in class discussions and later in the workplace” , she says. †

Some students have adopted this change and have taken a gap year, also known as a drop year, after graduating from high school. “I took a gap year after my 12th board exam and traveled domestically. I learned so much about different cultures and now I am an average Kannada speaker. I had also used that year to meet a student counselor and talk to her about what I really want to do in life,” said Pooja*, who completed her class of 12 in 2018. did my research on music schools in India and abroad, rather than mindlessly jumping into a BA (Hons.) degree,” she adds.

While the concept is just starting to gain traction in India, the rise of the pandemic has also left many wondering if now is a good time to take a gap year.

Amid uncertainties created by the pandemic, experts believe students should only take that step when necessary.

“Time is a precious currency and must be used wisely. Students considering a gap year should clearly know how they will use it,” said BS Ventakachalam, director of Narayana e-Techno School, Bengaluru. “They should talk to older generations who have the benefit of life experience. An open dialogue with parents, teachers, older siblings and older students who have taken a gap year in the past will give them a balanced view of how the decision could affect their future. Students should think about it objectively and carefully weigh the pros and cons,” says Ventakachalam.

Taking a break or taking a break was usually only considered normal for those kids who either had to step back due to a financial situation or who wanted to prepare for entrance exams for courses like NEET, CLAT etc. Called it a “privileged year”, Shashi Banerjee, director of education at Shiv Nadar School, says she motivates children to take this gap year if they can afford it and are willing to do so, but also warns children to “make an informed decision” in this matter. to take.

“Covid has increased adoption of a gap year as most schools that have not had the resources to build internship or apprenticeship programs may now be looking at building such sabbatical programs,” Banerjee says.

Another reason why the concept of a gap year is being openly discussed and chosen now is the coronavirus pandemic, she adds. “Covid has actually brought mental health as a focal point. People are talking about it more and people are accepting it more now,” Banerjee says.

“However, there are still many people who do not want to tell a university or their employer that they are not participating because of psychological problems. People are afraid of thinking ‘oh this kid has a problem. People are still hesitant, but many universities have been pointed out. But I think that since Covid, universities are generally more accepting and accepting that young people take a gap year to work on their mental health.”

*Name changed on request

Sajal Jain
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