Think hard before opting for gap year, university students advised

On-campus learning has been suspended since March in light of the Covid-19 pandemic.

PETALING JAYA: An academic has advised university students considering a deferral of studies in light of Covid-19 to opt for a break only after taking into consideration the full implications of putting off their education in such an uncertain climate.

Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) deputy vice-chancellor Iqbal Saripan said students should conduct a due diligence of sorts before coming to a decision on the matter.

He also warned that those who decide to defer their studies should do so with a solid plan in mind.

“If they know what to do, what to achieve and how the gap year will improve them, then it is a good decision.

“Otherwise, it is better for them to continue their studies,” he told FMT.

University classes have been conducted online since mid-March as part of Covid-19 safety measures that saw public activity and mass gatherings prohibited under a partial lockdown.

The movement control order (MCO), which saw some restrictions lifted in May under a conditional version, ended on Tuesday. Most sectors are now rebooting under the recovery MCO phase which will continue until the end of August.

Some students are considering a deferral of studies due to difficulties adapting to online learning. Others believe taking a gap year will allow them to enter the job market after it recovers from the economic toll inflicted by the virus pandemic.

However, Iqbal said when the market would recover from the outbreak remained anyone’s guess.

“Some sectors may recover more quickly than others,” he said, adding that students should complete their studies and focus on acquiring marketable skills before looking for a permanent job.

At UPM, he said, those who wished to take a gap year would see their tuition fees brought forward.

“But while they will not have to pay the university fee during this period, they may still need to pay other service fees such as for health services,” he said.

Sarah Sakeenah, who studies at Universiti Malaya, said students should only take a break this year if they cannot cope with online learning.

“If you feel like you’re not learning anything right now, it’ll be a waste of time and money,” she told FMT.

Adding that she understood the reasoning behind online classes, she said it was still less effective than learning face-to-face.

“Both my classmates and lecturers say they are a lot more stressed with online learning since the amount of work assigned to both sides has increased.”

She suggested that universities consider allowing physical classes for small groups in the upcoming semester, especially for tutorials or labs, while maintaining online classes for lectures with large numbers of students.

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