Cultural Differences on High School Graduation

I never attended High School graduation ceremony. Most of the High Schools or Secondary Schools as it is known in Kenya are boarding schools. Many students are happy to finish their final exams and will have to wait for two to three months before they know the results. This is different from the American High Schools graduation. Yesterday I dropped one of my foster kids for her graduation night. All the students were going Del Mar in Los Angeles for boat excursion. She was dressed in jeans and her class t-shirt. On arrival at the school, all girls were dressed elegantly. She got a rude shock and wanted to go back home. I pointed to her that she has worked so hard in the last four years that other peoples' dressing would not deter her from having a good time. She finally agreed to go and really had a blast. She did not return until 3:00 am this morning.

A high school diploma can be a gateway to post secondary, better employment and a successful college career. Most of jobs require some type of training or education beyond high school and most institutions of higher education want applicants to be high school graduates. A high school graduates earn higher salaries than none graduates. They are less likely to depend on public or government assistance, health care, or to engage in criminal activity. A higher level of education typically means better employment prospects and increased personal satisfaction and self discovery.

A high school diploma can be a ticket to moving into higher education. Colleges and universities require students to have a diploma in order to enroll. Some colleges also accept applicants who have a General Education Diploma (GED), but will prefer the traditional diploma. Today, college may be more important than ever before. Not only is it beneficial for students who want successful careers later in life, but it also provides an experience that students will remember forever.

The Kenyan system of education requires students to study for three years and on their last year, they will be tested on all subjects studied for the past four years. This can be very stressful for a student to remember all courses studies during the past four years. Kenyan system of education is borrowed from the British system of education. There are no multiple choices-students have to remember everything. I remember during my final exam in November of a few years back, the stress I faced. Passing the Kenya Advanced Certificate of Education (KACE) was a great accomplishment and it was almost between life and death.

Kenyan system of education also had two years of post secondary school before going to University. During my school times, there were only four public universities. Out of 10,000 high school graduates, only 3,000 were eligible to join the public universities. The passing grade for university intake was B+ and above. Many Kenyan students who did not have an opportunity to attend public universities had the options of starting their own businesses (jua kali) which was a government sponsored program to make energy saving equipments. Others who could afford went to study abroad.

The two years of high school was eliminated about fifteen years ago. Comparing high school in America, successful high school academic careers require students to push themselves, especially during senior year. Students are encouraged to take advance courses and begin considering what colleges may fit them best. This may not be so for other foreign countries where the government determines the cut off pass mark and who will or will not attend the university.

Education is a great challenge for many students, but, for children who have been abused and neglected, education is even greater challenge. Many of the system children (children who are award of the court) are not able to have the competitiveness with other students and their frequent change of group homes and foster homes makes this determination less productive. Many of the teenagers I have worked with are terrified upon reaching age 16 and have only 35 credits before graduating. A total of 221-250 credits are required for graduation. Some of these teenagers give up, but few are able to continue with adult schools school or independent studies with support from caring foster parents or group home staff.

Many of us will agree that, days spent in secondary and high schools were the best days of our lives. It was in school that we made our first friends, learned to compete and excel, hoped for places in the sport teams, and learned the basics of life. The high school graduation may be celebrated this week for many students, but education still continues as long as we allow ourselves to learn.