The 105-years old Indian Institute of Science (IISc), Bangalore, holding its first formal convocation recently was attention-grabbing.
Overstepping the long-drawn tradition, without the usual formalities of convocation, students received their medal and certificates in a simple function held in the campus.
The tradition of the premier institute has always been to make students work quietly, take degrees quietly, and go out into the world.
When we consider the way graduation day celebrations being undertaken in various institutions of the country including those in the Bangalore city for the past couple of decades, one would wonder whether it has become a mockery of our education system.
There is great trumpeting associated with the ceremony and parents and relatives are being carried away attending such functions.
Starting from Kindergartens, the trend is gaining much regard among the institutions.
The ritual of graduation ceremony in educational institutions has become an epidemic irrespective of little kids in grade schools or young adults in colleges.
Many mediocre institutions consider such celebration as a marketing strategy. The scholarly appearance of their children makes the parents proud when they walk solemnly towards the stage elegantly garbed in their robes and tassels.
Renting robes have become a flourishing business. Colourful processions accompanied by ceremonial drum-beating gives a third world charm to the whole ritual.
An evolving tradition
The whole idea of graduation is believed to have started in the 12th century, introduced by scholastic monks who wore robes during the entire graduation ceremony.
It has kept on evolving ever since. Back in 1321, the University of Coimbra declared that all doctors, bachelors, and licentiates must wear gowns.
Excessive in apparel was forbidden later on in the 14th century in some colleges and to create uniformity suggested everyone wear a long gown.
By the time of England's Henry VIII, Oxford and Cambridge began using a standard form of academic dress, which was controlled to the tiniest detail by the university.
A system adopted by medieval scholars of the church to make certain vows with their clerical robes is being continued in the scorching summer heat spending considerable sum.
While at the post-graduate or doctoral level, the significance of the function can be understood, schools and junior colleges organising such ceremonies appear meaningless.
In most countries, a graduation usually only occurs at university level.
Every student’s journey towards graduation is filled with all sorts of trials and challenges but a graduation ceremony at each level of his education makes the occasion sillier.
Simple and sober
If convocation is about getting old students back and the faculty together, it is meaningful. But often this doesn’t happen. Significance of convocation in a system which focuses only on feeding the students with a lot of information and facts, but fails to impart the necessary wisdom, is more dubious.
The convocation function should be simple and sober as a shared moment of triumph and joy and to feel all the better about one’s achievement.
The value of a university education is incredible. But at the same time, a university degree does not come with a guarantee for worldly success and happiness.
On the day of graduation no one will wait at the gates of the campus to whisk the graduate away to fame and fortune.
If the cost of a degree is worth it to students, if higher education produces real value for society and if our curriculum is sound, proud graduates need to celebrate their degrees with humility and equanimity only and not through pomp and show.
If students persist in their studies and successfully complete their programme, they leave a campus with much more than a medal or certificate.
Meaningful success usually requires hard work and long hours with support from others in crucial ways and at critical moments.
Convocation is an occasion to remind the graduate to act on by giving back to their community, colleagues and friends.
To impart the knowledge to a parting student that the acts of giving, contributing and helping are the secret of happiness and success, a modest convocation ceremony is right than a plush one.