It can be argued that no one has been affected as much or as unfairly by the coronavirus pandemic than the Class of 2020. Students graduating from Higher Educational Institutes meet one of the most volatile and uncertain economies of the past century, while students graduating from high school and heading to universities deal with the dilemma of whether to take a gap year or accept the reality that is online classes for possibly the entirety of the 2020-2021 academic session.
Like all difficult dilemmas, there are both positives and negatives to both possibilities.
Taking a gap year would allow students to work on valuable skills and tools to set themselves apart from their peers when they decide to join the job market. For example, a year could be spent learning a new language, interning for a relevant organization or even travelling and widening their horizons. Plus, students would then be free to join Higher Education next year and hopefully be able to get the full, oft-valued “college-experience”. More importantly, they would be more likely to get better quality education by next year – a time when hopefully things would be back to normal, or, if not, universities would have had substantial time to invest in and improve the quality of their distance-learning systems.
There’s also the problem of inadequate access to online classes caused by load-shedding and limited Wi-Fi means many students are simply unable to take full advantage of online classes and fall behind their peers. In addition, there’s the reality that, for many students, online classes simply do not offer them the motivation and drive to succeed that in-person classes offered.
But there are obvious problems here too. First of all, remaining motivated in a gap year is a skill few have and there are countless stories of students ambitiously taking gap years to learn new things and then end up playing video games all year. Secondly, unlike other years, a gap year too this time has limited possibilities. Travelling might be difficult in this economy, especially with social-distancing in place, and internships are probably harder than ever to come by. If the general stigma society placed on “gap-year students” wasn’t bad enough, there’s also the fact that students pursuing a gap-year would be one-year behind peers they’ve spent their entire lives with.
Furthermore, online-classes generally offer the same content as in-person classes. Many teachers argue that if students simply apply themselves, the difference between online and in-person classes will prove negligible.
Naturally, whether a student opts for a gap year or online classes depends on them and their individual circumstances. One thing is for certain however – the older generation must remember to have some basic empathy for students and the struggle they are going through, while respecting their decisions rather than imposing their own beliefs and ideals on them.