Valedictorian is an academic title of success used in the United States, Canada, Central America, and the Philippines for the student who delivers the closing or farewell statement at a graduation ceremony (called a valediction). The chosen valedictorian is often the student with the highest ranking (highest Grade Point Average, or GPA for short) among their graduating class. The term is an Anglicisedderivation of the Latinvale dicere ("to say farewell"), historically rooted in the valedictorian's traditional role as the final speaker at the graduation ceremony before the students receive their diplomas. The valedictory address generally is considered a final farewell to classmates, before they disperse to pursue their individual paths after graduating.
In Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, Ireland, India and the United Kingdom, the title valedictorian is not used frequently. In Australia, the title is sometimes awarded to a member of a graduating university class on the basis of contribution to the school rather than academic success. The highest-ranking student in a graduating class is often referred to as dux (Latin for "leader"), and may or may not give a speech. In France the term Major de promotion ("first in class") is used, although the term is not related to any ceremonial role, as there are rarely graduation ceremonies in schools or universities.
How an individual school confers the title is typically based upon the highest grade point average. Some institutions confer the title on the class member chosen to deliver the final graduation address, regardless of the speaker's academic credentials. Historically and traditionally, however, schools confer the title upon the highest ranking graduate of the class, who thereby earns the honor of delivering the valedictory address.
Some institutions award the title based upon various criteria such as overall academic record of grades and credits, a student's grade point average, the level of rigor within a student's academic program of studies, a vote by school administrators, the level of participation in and dedication to extracurricular activities, and one's public-speaking skills and abilities. In other schools, the position may be elected by the school body or appointed directly by the school administration based on various systems of merit. Some schools may feature "co-valedictorians" in lieu of conferring the title on a single individual from among the graduating class. This may occur in the case of a numerical tie in grade point averages, as part of a Latin honors system.