Singapore students ‘disappointed’ graduations canceled, not postponed

A group of graduates throw their caps in the air. Photo: Pang Yuhao
A group of graduates throw their caps in the air. Photo: Pang Yuhao

Elevated “circuit-breaker” containment measures have devastated many students denied their graduation pomp and circumstance.

Some have voiced disappointment at the education minister after it was announced that all May and July graduation ceremonies for vocational education students would be canceled, meaning 32,500 students would instead receive their diplomas, certificates, and transcripts through mail. University graduation ceremonies were unaffected.

“It’s okay not to have a Graduation Ceremony during the virus, but could we have one after it when the storm blows over?” student Matthew Tay pleaded in response comments by Education Minister Ong Ye Kung. “From your post, it looks like since there is no meaning in graduation for you, why not cancel all graduation ceremonies in the future then. Other cohorts will be graduating with their graduation ceremony, and we will be graduating in ‘pdf’ online lmao.”

Tay’s and other comments came in response to the minister’s attempt to empathize with the students. 

“I can fully understand. This is an important milestone for you and your parents. But unfortunately, it is currently not safe to hold ceremonies,” Ong wrote online yesterday. “We don’t want to trigger a cluster of infections. Then a happy occasion will become a tragedy.”

Several final year poly students have expressed to me their disappointment that there will be no graduating ceremonies…

Posted by Ong Ye Kung on Saturday, 11 April 2020


He urged the students to look at the bigger picture and focus on honing the skills acquired for their futures.

“Today, I am just glad I had a good education and can put what I have learned to good use. I have never lamented not having attended my graduation ceremonies. I missed them for reasons more important than attending them. I chose to graduate to working life, and to fatherhood instead,” Ong said.

Whether it was the patronizing tone or their need for that magical life moment, some students were left unsatisfied and demanded the ceremonies be postponed rather than canceled.

Facebook user JiaaLi Lee said the ceremony is a celebration of their hard work and noted that it might be the only graduation some might have before entering the workforce. 

“[W]hile a lot of them said they don’t think graduation ceremony is a big thingy but still, people like us will be sad for our life if our grad is canceled. [N]ot asking them to continue grad ceremony at this point of time, at least they could consider postponing it till a later date/next year batch. Hope they can ‘make-up’ since we worked so hard for this and this may be our last graduation before we enter workforce. Sigh,” she said.

In his response, Ong said he never attended any of his graduation ceremonies because of his notice to return to Singapore to serve his bond and the birth of his first child. The first time he donned a graduation gown was when he attended a National University of Singapore Commencement ceremony as a guest of honor after becoming the Minister of Education.

But Nisha Snd said his personal experiences were irrelevant and incomparable to a celebration of their achievements.

“This post is not even relevant. As a student who is graduating this year, I am upset our ceremony has been cancelled. It’s a ceremony to celebrate on our accomplishment. This isn’t comparable Nor has anything to do with your own experiences on why you didn’t attend your ceremony,” she said.

Other users chimed in to support the students, further adding on to their dismay over the situation.

Parent of one of the students, Angela reminded Ong that not everyone can get their Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees, resulting in the ceremony being a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for some. 

“What I believe some parents including myself and especially the students are asking, is not to outright cancel their graduation ceremony. They deserve better. For some, this may be the only chance in their life they’ll get to wear the gown. Why? Because for many students and their families, this could also be their one and only chance to attend a graduation ceremony in their lifetime,” she said

Graduate Geoff Ow also finds graduation ceremonies to be the “cherry on top of the cake” for students’ learning journeys.  

“I disagree. Whilst that may be your own sentiments, Ong Ye Kung, I found my graduation ceremony to be the cherry on top of the cake. It is regrettable that the polytechnic students won’t have a graduation this year, but perhaps a belated one could be organised for them as soon as this pandemic blows over,” he said

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Where you can’t go, what you can’t do under Singapore’s latest COVID-19 measures
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