Traced back to the British traditions of the Grand Tour related to the Victorian period and hippy movement during the 1960s and 1970s, currently, the gap year spread to other countries and is recognized as a beneficial instrumentality (Heath 2007). Serious consideration should be given to the cultural context of these programs before applying these initially UK-based programs to the US setting.
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The main problem which will be raised in this paper is the evaluation of the impact of the cultural background upon the benefits which could be received from the enrollment into the gap year programs for the individuals’ motivation, self-identification, professional determination, and following the academic performance.
The questions to be addressed in this research include the socio-economic and cultural background of individuals traditionally deciding to take a gap year, the main advantages of making a pause in the educational process, and peculiarities of students’ perception of the opportunities and benefits of taking a gap year in different countries.
Through the literature review, it has been discovered that as opposed to the widely spread misconceptions, along with the children from privileged families, students with a socioeconomically disadvantaged background often delay their transition to college (Goldrick-Rab & Han). Thus, the demographic situation in the country and the underlying causes of the gap year need to be taken into consideration for evaluating is benefits. Regarding the benefits of the gap year instrumentality, it can become a valuable contribution in terms of the economy of experience, ensuring not only improved academic performance but even better chances on the labor market (Heath 2007).
However, the cultural background can have an impact on the students’ perception of the opportunities, advantages, and risks attributed to taking a gap year (King 2011). In that regard, serious consideration should be given to the cultural values, demographic situation, and the opportunities provided by the American educational system before adopting the UK tradition of taking a gap year before transiting from school to college in the US setting.
The conceptual framework which can be applied for evaluating the impact of the cultural background upon the effectiveness of taking a gap year is the model of economy of experience developed by Brown (2003) as it was cited in Heath (2007).
The qualitative research is the most appropriate method for evaluating the relationships between the variables of the cultural and socioeconomic backgrounds and the students’ perceived opportunities and benefits from delaying the transition to college.
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As to the operational definitions required for establishing the relationships between the variables include the gap year as the pause between the graduation from school and admission to the higher education institution which is not necessarily equal to 12 months, the cultural background as the ethnic origin and the country of birth, the perceived opportunities as the students’ accounts of their motivation for taking a break and the benefits as the improved performance and better chances for finding a good job as compared to the students not taking a gap year.
The main assumption of the study is that gap year is beneficial for students disregarding their cultural background, while the main contingency of the study design was the difference between the perceived opportunities and the real-life benefits received by students.
The methodology used in this study is the interview of American secondary school students who are going to take a gap year regarding their perception of the opportunities of delaying college admission.
The sources of internal invalidity include the small sampling of the interviewees and the possibility of the biased answers from some of the participants, while the lack of empirical research on the phenomenon of the year gap can be regarded as the main source of the external invalidity.
Goldrick-Rab, S. & Han, S. (2011). Accounting for socioeconomic differences in delaying the transition to college. The Review of Higher Education, 34 (3): 423-445.
Heath, S. (2007). Widening the gap: Pre-university gap years and the ‘economy of experience’. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 28(1): 89-103.
King, A. (2011). Minding the gap? Young people’s accounts of taking a gap year as a form of identity work in higher education. Journal of Youth Studies, 14(3): 341-357.