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Stabroek News

Editorial - Graduation to what and for whom?
published: Sunday | July 1, 2007

WE ARE IN the midst of graduation season - the annual rite of passage in which young persons in particular move from one level of achievement to another (hopefully). By September, thousands of students across the nation (some 50,972 took the Grade Six Achievement Test, according to Ministry of Education figures) will be advancing from primary to secondary schools. Another large number from secondary schools is leaving school at the end of this academic year, some to advanced studies, some to the world of work.

Interestingly, the Collins Dictionary, in its definition of graduation, speaks specifically to "the completion of a course of study at a university or college." No mention is made of primary and secondary levels, and certainly not of kindergarten and preparatory where we now find young children in graduation mode, parading in cap and gown and other accoutrements once associated exclusively with maturity.

On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with rituals which can provide some meaning and even inspiration to persons of whatever age. In our present situation, however, graduation seems to be evolving into complex and costly side-shows, designed more for the gratification of adults - parents, teachers, etc. - than to affirming the achievement of students.

Sad to say, some of our graduates have not attained a level of achievement worthy of celebration. In the situation, perhaps some of the ceremonies are really intended as some form of consolation prize.

Concern has been expressed for some time now at the excessive expenditure spent on graduation ceremonies. A most puzzling aspect of this trend is why parents and guardians, who can least afford it, expend what they cannot afford on costly garments and accessories to put their children, as young as four years of age, into the spotlight.

While it is understandable that whatever their status, parents and guardians would want the best for their offspring, it is difficult to accept the distortion of values which encourages a one-day bout of extravagance while there will be inevitable obligations to be met come the new school year.

Tuition, books, clothing, nutrition, transportation are all inescapable components of education costs. Despite political promises of who will eventually assume responsibility for what, prudence would dictate that those with responsibility for the students' welfare would begin from now to make the necessary preparations to meet the inescapable demands.

Yet the profligacy continues, evidence that the spirit of thrift and responsibility which was once the hallmark of how as a people we saw ourselves, is rapidly deteriorating.

This is not to pour cold water on all rituals of acclamation and affirmation, especially for the youngsters who have excelled. Those who have not done well can also benefit from encouragement.

However, the now popular pomp and show at all costs, could also be seen as a denial of reality whereby prudent management of family resources, especially in the face of survival challenges, are cast to the winds, just to satisfy one brief moment of questionable glory. The question may well be asked: Graduation to what and graduation for whom?

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