On grade-differentiation.

It has become apparent to me that one of the key attributes of elite’ school success is that when you have a bunch of students that are going to do well anyways no matter if they work at 30%, 50%, 70% or 100% effort levels, they can put their mind off their studies and explore other things. The likelihood of this happening in non-elite schools becomes lower and lower the less likely students are going to get reasonable grades with a reasonable amount of effort. So the problem lies in this grade-obsessed meritocracy, or in some ways, a meritocracy that differentiates grades at minute levels and hence privileges being able to do marginally better in school work than others. If it were simply easier for everyone to do well, more students would be freed up to explore their non-academic interests, rather than having to pay an academic price for doing so, not to mention being discriminated by employers, parents etc because the difference between an A and a B, although ever so slight, is forever ingrained on one’s transcripts. Sure, grade-differentiation differentiates the top 1% from the top 2%, but it also renders the non-academic accomplishments relatively invisible. If the top 20% were virtually indistinguishable, then that would send a message that it shouldn’t matter if you got every question correct, or made a couple of careless mistakes – employers would instead be forced to turn ask graduating students – what creative pursuits have you embarked on in your free time. But this happens less with grade differentiation because it is so much easier to just make hiring decisions based on grades when that information is available. Harvard gets this. That’s why they give 80% of every class an A. So that their students can go and do their thing in their free time. NUS students on the other hand – they only have free time at the expense of their class of honours. 


~ by moz on October 26, 2013.

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