WIWN* #1: “The Gap Year” and alternatives for Philippine education

Posted on August 2, 2008


*WIWN: What If, Why Not?

I came upon this entry in Social Edge a few months ago, about the “Gap Year” and what it means for young people and social change in the United States. Its first three paragraphs read as follows:


Young people who study abroad for a year often come back with a newfound passion for social change, a fresh worldview and even different career interests. But the frustration for many of these young people is that by the time they get back to their campus – and know what they want to do with their life – they have only one year of college left to take the classes and jump into the extracurricular activities that will prepare them for their life’s journey.

That may be one reason why America’s top universities are telling their newly admitted students to go abroad before matriculating. Harvard encourages students to take a “gap year” between high school and college and travel the world. Princeton will soon even be offering financial aid to students who want to participate in a year of global service before coming to college.

The “gap year” opportunity has the potential to inspire a generation and to ensure students go to college with a global conscience. Gap years are commonplace in the U.K. and students there often head to university with a sense of how they will use their skills to work in the world’s service. It is possible that a “gap year” can help bring the world home to Americans as well.


When I saw this, I immediately shot off an email to a few friends–absolute WhyNuts they all were!–and said this:

“One opportunity that this presents for alternative education + social entrepreneurship in the Philippines is that organizations can package “gap year tours/immersions” for incoming freshmen (or even fresh graduates who are about to join the workforce) that will allow them to see different parts of the country, see the situation/plight of different sectors as they really are, and be in a greater position to understand our socio-economic condition on a macro level. These tours/immersions can be priced just like one regular schoolyear and put students on a “real-life course” that will put everything else they learn into a better, much more realistic context. Young people like us often tend to romanticize “social change” and “making a difference.” If we saw what really needs to be done (and how much!), then we would be in a better position to use our skills more effectively. It’s like a JVP year–except that, here, students will have to pay; they will also have the option to visit different places in one year; and there can be “processing sessions” throughout the year.”

It also made me think: What about exchange programs among universities within the country? The typical exchange student program is run between universities in different countries, supposedly to facilitate greater cultural understanding, etc. But how about bridging cultural gaps within the country? How about exchange programs, for instance, between Catholic and Muslim schools? Or between schools in the North and those in the South? Or “field trips” to indigenous communities? Think of the far-reaching impact that such programs would do for young people of this generation, of this country. Before we push them out, maybe we should bring them around first.

What do you think?