by Antara Rao
In this maddening race to be ‘successful’ today, students across the country are working to secure a ‘good and respectable’ marksheet, get an admission into a well reputed college, and consequently, live a defined life.
But increasingly, there are those who take a ‘break year’ right after school, before they get into college. While it’s a break from academics for some, for others it’s an opportunity to build their portfolio, or actually figure out what they’re interested in.
The idea of taking a gap year is not very recent, but the difference is that today, this is seen as an informed decision, and not just a ‘risk’ that youngsters take.
Uma Aradhya is a 17-year-old who will be graduating from The Valley School KFI this year, and has decided to take a break from academics to pursue her interest in the environment and her love for animals. Uma will be volunteering in a wildlife rescue and rehabilitation centre before she starts applying to colleges.
“There are just so many interesting things to do besides the mainstream. I also want to travel and find out what I’m interested in, and grow with the knowledge,” she says.
Gaurisha Gusain is another youngster who has taken a break after her schooling. Instead of college, Gaurisha, who graduated from St. Joseph's high school, Bombay last year, decided to take her love for textiles forward with a startup called Chaap.
“I took a break because I wanted to figure out what exactly I wanted to do in life. I knew I was always interested in art, but which stream? So I started working in different mediums and loved Textile designing. Which is why I am currently working with different materials in Kutch, Gujarat," she says.
The idea of a break year does not necessarily mean a period of doing ‘nothing’. Instead, it should be seen as a time of high significance, as students gain insight on what they truly want to do, and achieve greater clarity on who they are as individuals, experts say.
“I think a gap year is a very valuable investment which allows the body, soul and mind to contemplate in a relaxed manner to decide what would be the appropriate line to pursue, to dialogue, to travel, to investigate. It is a precious opportunity,” says Jayaram S, the principal of The Valley School KFI.
But not everyone is in favour of students taking a gap year - especially parents. Madhurima Datta Roy who is the parent of a 19-year-old student, who recently graduated from Apeejay High school says, “If a student has not made up their mind about their future by the time they finish high school, what’s the guarantee that they will do so in their gap year?”
There’s also the fact that not everyone can afford to take a break either. There are students whose economic background doesn’t allow for a gap year - they cannot afford experiential trips or delay the moment they would start earning.
As Mamtha Rao, who is the parent of a 16-year-old who recently graduated from Vishwajyot High School says, “In the Indian context, it's a country where parents are taking care of their elders, parents are paying for their kids’ education and also have to save up for their own retirement. So I feel in a country like India where the dynamics of society are so different, the concept of a gap year is an added financial pressure for the parents."
(The writer is a student of The Valley School KFI, and interned with TNM as part of her course requirements.)