Updated: May 14, 2020
Excerpt from the Guest Column! Take a break! by Mr. Manish Jain, the Founder-Coordinator of Shikshantar Andolan. He is passionate about organic farming, healthy cooking, zero waste living and community media, and was one of the visionaries behind UNESCO’s ‘Learning without Frontiers Programme’ for the 21st century. Blub World February 2019
Do you feel stressed, bored, un-inspired by your life? Did you ever take time to think about what you really love to do or what inspires you? Did you ever think about what is your special mission on this planet? Since 2012, Udaipur-based Shikshantar Resource Center for Free Learning has supported the Year On Campaign to inspire young people to consider taking a gap year after class 8, 10, 12 or during college and engage in travelling, practical work experiences, internships, volunteering, do-it-yourself projects, online learning, startups, learning a skill, spending time with grandparents and community service. The reason it is called a Year On is to challenge the common cultural misperception that children waste a year if they take a gap year. So rather than take a year off, it is suggested as taking a Year On to explore yourself, your passion and your community. It is effort of reminding students and their parents that the world is our real classroom and life is the best teacher. In USA and Europe, the concept of a gap year during one’s education journey has been well-established since the 1960s.
Ishan Raval, from Baroda, Gujarat, took a Year On after class 12. He spent the year focusing on his Hindustani classical singing, writing articles, making short films, and travelling. He, particularly values the fact that he was able to come out of the bubble that children are put into, and interact with diverse and inspiring people over the course of the year. He is now studying in the honors programme of North Carolina State University in the United States. Sakhi Nitin-Anita, from Nashik, Maharashtra, took a Year On after class 7 and liked it so much that she extended it for four years. She rejoined school for class 11th. She spent time in her gap year honing her journalism and writing skills and got several articles published in national newspapers. She also travelled throughout India. Recently, she was a topper at the prestigious Tata Institute of Social Sciences for the Women’s Studies Course and is now pursuing her post-grad at London School of Economics.
It is exciting to see major universities from around the world, such as Princeton University and Harvard University, are encouraging students to take a gap year before admissions. They feel that students who have taken time away from studies are more emotionally mature and focused and can better avail of opportunities at the university level. They have found that students bring many more varied life experiences, powerful questions and practical skills into the university learning environment. Several studies indicate that students who have taken a gap year perform better than their peers in academics. Lena Hoplamazian from Chicago is currently on a Year On in Udaipur, India before joining her course at Princeton. She says, “This is one of the best decisions I have taken in my life.
"A good start would be to make a bucket list for self, of all the things one dreams of doing before leaving this Earth. For the young people who are initially confused about their preferences, it is advisable that you start anywhere with something specific and follow it everywhere it takes you."
I am learning so much about myself.” She shares that many foreign universities have even started giving students financial scholarships to support their gap year.
As part of the Year On campaign in India, several school principals and guidance counselors from prestigious educational institutions such as Mirambika, the Valley School, Riverside School, the Heritage School have started voicing their expert opinions that it is very beneficial on both pedagogical and social levels if the student takes gap year. They feel that the gap year after 10th or 12th should be an essential part of the students' educational journey for the 21st century. It promotes the students' foundational capacities for self-discovery, confidence, intrinsic motivation, self-discipline, collaborative learning. It also helps reduce some of the competitive pressure that is driving students to depression and even suicide. Worth noting is that these enlightened principals are willing to allow students re-admit to their schools after the gap year. They say, “We believe that it is important for students to take time to discover what they really love before pursuing a higher education course. There are many new career choices opening up and many careers are not what they seem from the outside.” driving students to depression and even suicide. Worth noting is that these enlightened principals are willing to allow students re-admit to their schools after the gap year. They say, “We believe that it is important for students to take time to discover what they really love before pursuing a higher education course. There are many new career choices opening up and many careers are not what they seem from the outside.” Several CEOs and visionary leaders are also starting to recognize the transformative value of a gap year for their future employees, and give preference to those who have taken one in their hiring strategies. In fact, many have personally shared that a gap year was very pivotal for them in their own life journeys. Many speak of their year away as a "life-altering" experience or a "turning point". In his work, Chintan Bakshi, founder of Startup Oasis in Jaipur, encourages a gap year for budding entrepreneurs. Gaining gap year work experience helps students become more acquainted with the ins and outs of a professional atmosphere. It also helps them to better understand society, changing trends and emerging opportunities. Chintan Bakshi shares, “It is exciting to see kids abroad creating their own startups. They are living their dreams now, and learning a lot in the process.”
Currently, the biggest barrier to the Year On concept is Indian parents. Parents think that children will waste time in a gap year or lose their career track if they are not supervised/ controlled by a full-time teacher or syllabus. The Year On Campaign seeks to change this perception of parents and local communities by highlighting the valuable learning opportunities that students can get involved in. Students around the country have been volunteering in organic farms and restaurants, working with underprivileged children in NGOs, conducting research and writing a book, focusing on music, dance, and sports, working on their own IT start-ups, supporting anti-corruption campaigns, and all kinds of other amazing things. Most importantly, they have been travelling extensively and experiencing the ‘real India’.
A good start would be to make a bucket list for self, of all the things one dreams of doing before leaving this Earth. For the young people who are initially confused about their preferences, it is advisable that you start anywhere with something specific and follow it everywhere it takes you.
"A good way to convince your parents is to research some specific opportunities and share a plan of action with them. You need to show them that you are serious about it."
There are books that highlight the learning adventures of students when they take a Year On. The US-focused Teenage Liberation Handbook is also an excellent resource for those who are looking for more ideas on what to do in their gap year. The blog, Khoj Gap Year, features a lot of great opportunities around India. Auroville, an international learning community near Pondicherry, has many learning opportunities for gap year students through its Anubhava Gap Year Program. . . Unlike many international gap year programmes, there are no fees to join the Year On campaign. There is an abundance of learning resources in India just waiting to be tapped into. Indian is much richer (and more flexible) than other countries in this regard. There are amazing people and spaces out there who would like to support young people in their learning journeys. All you have to do is just ask them for help. . . #blubworld #blubworldquoteboard #teenmagazine #india #childrenofblubworld #indianchildren #teenagers #goodread #interestingcontent #teenagelife #millennials #inspiringcontent #inspiration #peertopeerinspiration #wordsofwisdom #excerpts #blubworldguestcolumn #blubworldexclusive