Fascinating & unique graduation traditions around the world


Graduation from an educational institution is always important to a student and often involves a ceremony.  Whether it is a kindergarten graduation or the commencement for a Ph.D, all countries have their way of celebrating a student’s achievement.  Graduation ceremonies differ depending on where the ceremony takes place.

In South Africa’s University of the Witwatersrand, commencement celebrations are very formal – the procession is made up of the entire faculty.  The choir is usually present for a song or two and once the ceremony is complete, James Brown’s recording of I Feel Good is played.

Graduation hats being tossed by fresh graduates in ISB (Hyderabad, India). Photo Credit

In Sweden, high school graduations are celebrated as well as university graduations.  Instead of a mortarboard hat, the students wear a round cap with a black bill called a studentmössa.  The cap has evolved over the years, and for engineering graduates, the main color of the cap indicates which school of technology they attended.

Some have incorporated tassels into their hats as well.  When the students leave the building after the ceremony, families wait for them with large homemade signs; usually, to embarrass the graduate, the signs include pictures of the student as a child.  Once the ceremony is complete, students and their families gather together for a song and to join in a parade, complete with floats, around the town.

In the Philippines, students have graduation ceremonies for each level of education completed.  The processional includes the parents, who walk alongside the student.  When each student approaches the stage, he is required to turn and bow to the audience.  Having received their diploma, they are honored with a garland placed around their necks.

The garland is made from ribbons decorated with flowers that have been made from ribbon or silk.  Once the ceremony is complete, students receive additional garlands from their families.  It is customary for the graduate to wear white with a purple sash that indicates what honors he has received.  Hats are generally not worn, except by faculty.  More recently, students have started wearing mortarboards and gowns with their school uniforms underneath.

Student receiving academic degree from Azim Premji during a Graduation ceremony in ISB. Adi Godrej in the background. Recipient and donors in “convocation dress”. Photo Credit

In Spain, graduation attire is very traditional.  The robes have a built-in cape similar to those worn by the Pope.  They have lace cuffs and a round hat with a very large cuff – usually in blue.

Japanese students enter into a coordinated march and sing as they line up for diplomas.  They wear their school uniforms – dark blazers and slacks with a white shirt and red tie for the men; dark blazers, a plaid skirt, white shirt and red tie, along with dark knee socks and black shoes for the women.  The school year begins in March and the lower grades return to school immediately after the short ceremony.

At Japan’s Kanazawa College of Art, ceremonies look more like Halloween than a graduation.  Students wear whatever they want, and their attire has become so outrageous that TV crews come in to film the ceremonies.  Students wear everything from traditional Kimonos to cardboard boxes.

At Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University, men usually wear dark business suits, or traditional haori hakama, while women wear traditional kimonos, or onna hakama.  In secondary school ceremonies, the students are expected to bow to the Japanese flag and sing the national anthem and the school song.  As the names are called out, each student goes to the podium and receives their certificate with their left hand followed by their right hand; then with a step backward, they bow to the principal.  They carry the diploma in their left hand while making their way back to their seats.  Before they take their seats, each student is expected to bow toward their family members.

Student receives diploma from the Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico City. Photo Credit

In Argentina, after the ceremony is complete students have food, especially sticky things like ketchup and syrup, thrown at them.  Italian graduates are also subject to food being thrown at them by friends and family, and they often wear costumes.

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