The Sacredness Of Thai Degrees

The Sacredness Of Thai Degrees


A Facebook post by a doctor went viral last week and sparked a much-needed and perhaps overdue debate regarding the graduation ceremony at Thai universities. She claimed her employer friends wouldn't consider hiring graduates who didn't attend the ceremony to accept their diplomas from a member of the Thai royal family for fear of them being troublemakers. Being conferred your diploma by a member of the Thai royal family is a relatively new norm that started in the reign of King Rama VII. I would like to offer my personal experience regarding the tradition and my two satangs on the topic.

I attended my first graduation ceremony for a bachelor's degree without any questions. I got a nice framed picture to show for it and it still stands today in my parents' living room.

I attended my second ceremony for my master's degree at the same institution. That time around, I did have a lot of questions and that was before the call for the institution's reform even entered Thailand's zeitgeist. There were rules that I had to follow and a strict dress code I had to adhere to. I had to remember the many steps I had to nail to ensure the continuous flow of the ceremony. It was meticulously, solemnly and efficiently done. On the day, however, I was surprised to be told the dark blue rectangular frame of my glasses was somehow impolite but they eventually let it slide. My questions boiled down to 'Is all of this really necessary?'

I attended both ceremonies simply so that my parents would have some sort of concrete proof that I did graduate so they can talk about it with their relatives and friends. Simply put, for their face. Mind you, I chose and enjoyed what I learned but I did the ceremony more for them. I also looked forward to sharing the day with my professors (who helped me push past my limits), my classmates (who survived the same ordeal) and my friends and family. Bouquets and teddy bears were a nice added bonus but I have no idea where they are now.

In retrospect, I wouldn't attend the ceremony for my master's degree if I could escape it since I had to take a few days off for rehearsal and pay for the new suit and graduation robe. You may ask why I didn't try to persuade my parents to see that I already graduated without the ceremony. My answer is that you haven't met my mum. It was a calculated decision on my part to go through the ceremony, which I considered unnecessary and non-indicator of my moral compass, so my parents can have a happy occasion to celebrate and, more importantly, to preempt their nagging. More than a fair trade considering how much they've done for me.

However, to require your candidate to attend the ceremony in order to be considered desirable as a worker is flawed, to say the least. Such a requirement suggests that participating in the ceremony somehow makes you morally superior or at least shows that you have loyalty. Graduates may not want to participate in the ceremony for different reasons, personal or political. They may not want the additional cost that comes along with it. They may be simply unavailable during the dates due to their future plans or studying or working abroad. They may think it's unnecessary or even be against it as it represents feudalism to them. Some attend perfunctorily, as a formality, as I did.

For whatever reason they choose/choose not to participate shouldn't be held against/for them and, allow me to be blunt, I think it's none of employers' business to find out. I fail to see how such a condition could be interpreted as some sort of a moral indicator when all that matters for someone to perform a job well is his/her hard and soft skills. And, if you want your workers to be loyal, treat them fairly and respectfully. It's a simple business transaction. Quid pro quo.

IMHO, the real sacredness of a diploma is how it fulfils you as a person and helps you secure a job. It's you who you should thank, first and foremost, for putting time and effort into achieving academic excellence and using what you learn to earn an honest living.

And, that's sacred enough for me.

Pornchai Sereemongkonpol

Guru section Editor

Guru section Editor

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