June is the month of commencement exercises in Indonesia unlike in the Philippines, as graduations were held in March, which marks the start of a new school year. Schools in Indonesia are agog with excitement weeks before graduation after almost 10 months of toiling in the classroom. First, the ceremony signifies a new chapter in their lives, and, second, they get to go on a long well-deserved break overseas or otherwise.
Global Prestasi School in Bekasi, Kalimalang hosts three commencement exercises annually, one for each of its unit viz. elementary, junior high school, and senior high school. Before the opening of its Global Theatre, the ceremonies were held at either the Global Hall or at the nearby hotel of which at that time was only Hotel Horizon. Now, the school proudly hosts all commencement exercises in Global Theatre, with each unit choosing its preferred date in June following the announcement of the results of the national exam (locally known as ujian nasional) by the Ministry of Education. The students of junior high and senior high donned their togas on June 12 while the elementary students are set to don theirs on June 26.
At 8 in the morning, my junior high students – those enrolled in the Cambridge classes – were a sight to behold in their shiny blue togas and caps, million-dollar smiles on their faces. Soon, they were marching into the theatre – teachers, led by the principal Yulie Tan, first entered the hall then the students as the audience (parents, school officials, choir members) stood at their seats to welcome them. Interspersed with song numbers and speeches by invited alumnus and parent, the highlight of the ceremony was the capping ceremony. Each student had his/her turn to shine on stage against the huge backdrop featuring their name and several pictures capturing their growth through the three years in junior high. Tempus fugit! From the chubby awkward children that entered grade 7, they had grown into tall, svelte – even muscular – confident teenagers ready to take on senior high school.
Meanwhile, my grade 12 students, those enrolled in the IGCSE in their 10th year, occupied the hall at 6 in the evening. They were hardly recognizable in their shiny black togas and caps, as they cleaned up well from the scruffy-looking students in their bedraggled uniforms and sleepy mien. I noted that I felt more emotional at the senior high commencement exercise than I was in the morning. I chalked it up to one reason: my grade 12 students are going to fly the nest soon. They are going to spread their wings and see the world for themselves. They are now going to be faced with the vicissitudes of the real world to test their mettle. Part of the sentimentality came from the overwhelming pride I felt surging in me as my former IGCSE student, Kelvin Theandro Gotama, swept up several the best subject awards and, the icing on the cake, was named the best student of the year. Bravo!
Commencement exercises are indeed emotional events for every teacher, student, and parent. It presages simultaneously an ending and a beginning, new challenges and solutions, and new hurts and victories. Carpe diem, graduates!