Sunday, September 25, 2005

Gap Years = education reform

Well my trip in Portugal ends today so as I leave for the airport I am reminded of the concept known as "Gap Year" which is primarily a British cultural practice from what I have seen. If this "Gap Year" concept exists in other countries I look forward to hearing from you.I guess I am reminded of Gap Years since Portugal has such a large presence of British ex-pats, retirees, etc. Basically the concept is that a graduating high school student (in USA language terms) has their university slot/place reserved for them while they take the next year following high school graduation off to explore the world, work, volunteer, etc.For example -- let's say that Alice graduates from Worthington, Minnesota High School in May 2006 and has been accepted by Yale University to study Economics. Alice opts instead to take a "Gap Year" until August 2007 at which time she enters Yale University as a freshman. So what does she do during her gap year? Let's say she works for six (6) months in a factory near Worthington so she can save enough money to travel for the next six (6) months to be a literacy volunteer in Peru. Once Alice completes this gap year she enters Yale (ideally of course) a more mature, worldly, and motivated student.I am intrigued by this gap year concept given the peer and societal pressure we place on American high school students to "go to college right after high school or you will slip beyond everybody else............." plus I have lived in the United Kingdom in 1986 as a student and again from 2002 to 2004 as a consultant so I was exposed to this gap year concept.From my own university fraternity experience I simply saw too many freshmen who should have pursued other options instead of university life -- they failed academically due to immaturity, lack of academic credentials, or simply an inability to self-manage their new found freedom. Inserting the gap year concept into American society would save parents, students, and governments money.For more on education reform please consider visiting the work of the Heartland Institute, a think tank based in Chicago, Illinois USA -- -- and look for their "School Reform News" newspaper.



Steffen Schmidt (and Michael McCoy -on ID Theft) said...

I agree that good Gap year experience is valiable. After 35 years as a professor I also think many students who go to college should have been diverted to trade school and become electricians ... they would make a lot of money and we would have fewer useless psychologists or people who delayed their income for nothing by 4 years of college!

Two years in the military or a national mandatory service corps helping the poor and drowning in New Orleans would also be a good alternative

I would say that a year of bumming around foreign countries and tutoring in English and dealing with culture shock is the best experience!

Nice Blog!

Dr Politics

PolicyGuy said...

Some colleges do allow for "deferred admission." For example, Amherst says "An admitted first year student may, with the permission of the Director of Admission, defer matriculation for a year without reapplying."

Minnesota's own Macalester College also allows deffered admission.

These are just two colleges I picked out from a Google search. It appears that the concept is more widely used at the graduate level than the undergraduate.

I agree, the concept may be good for a lot of students. It would need some more institutional support (high schools, colleges, primarily) to take off.

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