Before the conversation
If you wandered off the UOS campus recently, many complaints about the first semester’s English grades could be easily heard . Most of them were about the absolute grading system. So this conversation was arranged as to find out how the UOS students think about the grading system. Through their conversation, we will be able to realize both the advantages and the disadvantages of each side, and we will have a chance to think about the right English education for the UOS students.
Having a lunch together at the Students’ Center
Reporter of The UOS Times(Kim Soh-min), Cho Eun-mi and Choi Won-gu of the Dept. of International Relations had a lunch together to discuss this matter seriously. They talked about the English Ⅰand Ⅱ classes of this year, and everything seemed to be gloomy throughout the conversation. Before the conversation began, I explained briefly about the present English grading system.
About the absolute English grading system at the UOS
Reporter: The English courses have been required subjects for a few years now. But before 1997, it was composed of two sections; reading and speaking- each counting as two credits. The importance of the course was relatively minor at that time. But in 1998, they were changed to a six-credit course like the one we have now. Also, it was not an absolute grading system from the beginning. Until last year, the grading system was neither absolute nor relative.
Eun-mi: I see. But I see many problems in the present grading system. Wouldn’t it be better if we kept last year’s grading system? In the new grading system, those who get the highest score in a class can not achieve an A+, even if they get a 100% on the tests (midterm and final). However, if we set the bottom line (for example, above 80 points) for giving an A grade, wouldn’t that be fairer?
Won-gu: Well, I do not think so. Making students get a score above 80 points will only create more problems like cheating. At least, some students are trying their best to get a good score on the present test system. But if we change the grading system, will they study English as hard as they are studying now?
Eun-mi: On the contrary, then, what about the rest of the students? For the last semester, only about 20 students got A grades out of about 1,600 students. I cannot understand why you would persist on maintaining the present grading system for honoring the achievements of only 20 students. Frankly, the majority of the students are not eager to study English at all because, no matter how hard they may try, the highest grade they can get is only a B grade. Most of them have lost their morale.
Won-gu: But just because they have much desire to study does not mean that they can get high grades. English is not like social science. An absolute standard is needed to evaluate one’s language abilities.
Eun-mi: I am not saying that we should get rid of the tests. But the base line should not be too high. If there is only one person who achieves over 90 points in a class, then he or she should get an A+ instead of an A.
Won-gu: That also has problems. If many people in a class get over 80 points, and only one person gets over 80 points in another class, then only one person in that class would get an A+. That’s not fair!
Reporter: Wait. Both of you have right ideas about it. But to solve the problem, the Education Board of English has divided the test into four different types: A, B, C, and D. There are 43 English classes, and they are separated by calculated scientific statistics. Usually night classes belong to C level and art and music departments belong to D level.
Both: Oh, I see.
Eun-mi: But I do not think that is enough. I heard that when we apply for jobs with some companies, they multiply 0.8 to our university’s grade system, 1.0 for Sogang University, and 1.1 for Seoul National University. This is disadvantageous to our students. Even though we get the same grades, they count lower than those similar grades of the above universities.
Won-gu: Actually, our students are lacking in English abilities when compared to those universities. If the school gives us good grades, nobody will really apply much effort in studying English.
Eun-mi: Well, but doing well on school exams do not make your English improve. The problem is that the exams are not practical at all.
Won-gu: Yes, but when English is tested, it has to be under an absolute circumstances. It is true that many hard questions should be avoided, but we need some kinds of standardized form to evaluate one’s English ability, absolutely.
Eun-mi: Yes, I agree with you in that point, but what I am trying to say is that the grading system should be both absolute and relative.
Won-gu: I understand you, and I also feel the same way about that.
Reporter: I guess, it is about the time we end our conversation, now. Both of you are correct with your reasoning. But I think we cannot decide on which side is right or wrong.
Our conversation continued on for a few more minutes. We discussed freely about our opinions. As our conversation went on, none of us could decide on what was right or wrong. However, each of those grading systems has merits and faults, and we agreed on the good points found in each system. We had a great experience in exchanging our thoughts from opposite sides and overcame our misinformed ideas. English classes are there to develop our English abilities; therefore, all of us agreed on the conclusion that to make oneself proficient in English, we must work and study as hard as we can.
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