Broad horizons? : geographies and pedagogies of the gap year
Leaving home and setting out to discover self and other is, for certain sections of British youth, a culturally embedded practice. The gap year offers both the mechanisms and legitimation for such journeys, and comes packaged with promises of adventure, discovery, exotic encounters and life changing experiences. However, it also comes situated in a specific history and geography, which, so far, have largely been ignored. This thesis draws together di verse discourses on development, travel and education, and combines this with ethnographic fieldwork with gap year participants in Peru, to offer a critical exploration of the constructed nature of the gap year, locating it both historically and geographically. Enthusiasm for the gap year has been widespread. There has been strong and vocal support from institutions and government alike, all extolling the 'value' of a gap year. To date however, the basis and reasons for this enthusiasm remains largely unexamined. This thesis explores the inspirations for, and the institutionalisation of, the gap year 'industry'. It examines the knowledges of, and relationships with, 'others' that participants produce through international gap year experiences. A critical pedagogical perspective is used to argue that, currently, despite the educational claims made about gap years, there is a failure to engage with the processes involved in knowledge production across space and time. This failure undermines the radical educational possibilities of the gap year. In order to move debates forward, this thesis explores the potential for a pedagogy of the gap year, arguing that any meaningful social agenda or attempt to engage with global awareness necessitates a pedagogy based on social justice.