For most people, the first two and half decades of their lives are usually dedicated to schooling, in the way society has structured it. From primary education, to secondary/high school and then to university/college level. At the end of the third tier of their academics, school leavers are expected to partake in a ceremony where they are handed their academic degrees. A necessary rite of passage that requires them to wear a gown, invite their family and friends to celebrate together, take photographs, eat and drink et cetera. It is usually a major milestone.
In the UK, this ceremony is referred to as graduation while in the US, it is generally referred to as commencement. In my experience, this same graduation/commencement description is often also used in colony countries. For example, Nigeria uses graduation just like UK and not commencement to describe this transition ceremony –- from graduands to graduates, that is largely marked with pomp and pageantry.
Some people say whether it is graduation or commencement it means the same thing, but I do think that this discussion is not just, ‘mere semantics’ and in my opinion, it has a kind of import on the disposition and outlook for the fresh graduates who are released to a highly competitive world. When you tell one person that he is graduating and the other person that he is commencing – am sure that it would mean different things to the both of them. Logically, graduation sounds in a sense like a final stop while commencement (as the word sounds), says life has just started.
And it is important that this is emphasized again and again. School leavers must get into life with the right assumptions. There are several statistics that talks about the declining rate of reading amongst graduates globally with one reason been that there are no more incentives to read, unlike the way the school system works, where you are only promoted when you show excellence in following through the academic requirements. But the fact is that to excel in life, requires even much more commitment from everyone. The thing is, there is infact a difference between academics and education. While academics is what they teach you (often within the four walls of a classroom), education is what you teach yourself, every day — at age 19 or 90, and everywhere — in the office, in the seminar room, at home. Everywhere.
Just as they say to medical school students about ‘a large fraction of what they learn in school becoming obsolete in a few years’, it is the same with many other disciplines also. The very reason why what is learnt in school is never enough. In the words of Alvin Toffler, “the illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn”. And this is what truly education means — a life long developmental process.
Life (education) does not end it school, it actually just commences so we must all strive to stay sharp, every day!