Breaking free from the relentless march from one educational qualification to the next, students in the city are increasingly choosing to opt out briefly from the education system. While students have often in the past taken gap years to prepare for entrance exams, many are now doing so to explore hobbies, interests or brush up on skills.
Ananya Tuli, 18, is on a gap year after finishing Class 12 from a boarding school last year and is now applying to colleges abroad. She took the time off to explore her real interests, she said. Tuli helped at fashion shows, worked for a manufacturing company and learnt Spanish.
As her gap year ends, and as she prepares to go to college she said more than anything, “by the end I knew what I didn’t want to do”.
However, for such students the absence of a routine can be a problem and it requires discipline to ensure it is time spent productively. “Sometimes I did miss having a schedule, but then you also make your own routine,” said Tuli, who finished Class 10 from Jamnabai Narsee School in Juhu.
For some gap year takers, the time off also helps sharpen their skills and their resumes. “People told me it made sense to work on my game and then apply to college abroad,” said Ness Billimoria, an Under-19 national squash player who improved his ranking by eight ranks in the past year, while also doing community work.
Billimoria finished Class 12 last year from Jai Hind College.
Similarly, Satvik Samani, 18, finished Class 12 from Mithibai College last year and spent a lot of time playing sports, winning table tennis tournaments and learning tennis.
More than anything, what students need when taking a year off is supportive parents.
“The biggest barrier to the ‘year on’ concept is parents,” said a note from the Year On campaign promoter Manish Jain. “They are afraid to let the children have any space to think for themselves. They also feel that the children will waste time in a gap year if they are not supervised by a full-time teacher.”