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The Unfair GPA System Compromises Academic Standards

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Knowing the hawkish, corrupt minds anticipating the instigation of any argument to counter it aggressively –and yet through prose and poetry– few would want to slog their way through the criticism swamp.

The majority’s unwillingness to address the imperfections of the academic system changes nothing of the fact that the Grade Point Average (GPA) compromises standards of education.

The fact that the GPA system is the offspring of a model that claims to encourage individuality should instigate –perhaps in a near date– a traditional work of black comedy.

The ‘equal’ treatment of individuals supposes that they have the ability to work at the same rate and acquire the same amount of knowledge at the end of an (exceptionally fruitful) semester.

When respecting students’ individuality, universities must consider their exclusive variables. Financial, emotional or psychological instabilities can hinder a student’s academic progress. It is not about ‘people with special needs.’  Rather than alienating the ‘unfortunate some,’ a fresh system should realize that every individual has ‘special needs.’

If Albert Einstein were enrolled in a physics course today, but – for any conspiracy-clear reason – did not do well on an exam, he might very well miss out on a chance to get the coveted A in a ‘proficient, professional, harmonious, accredited…’ academic institution.

Not even showcasing his genius outside class, conducting unimaginable experiments and deriving the most ear-twirling theories would save him. Poor Al is doomed.

His teacher, who boasts much-celebrated modern-world attributes such as mechanic professionalism, says that Al’s performance in the course –despite acquiring unforgettable knowledge from the material of the course– was still insufficient to deserve an A.

Despite the efforts at ‘unifying’ the standards of exam correction, different instructors will always rate differently. The student, who gets an A, might not always be the one who has deserved it; instead, he or she might be the one who knows which instructors have an ‘Easy As’ tag slapped on their foreheads.

The obsessive culture of mass production makes some believe that perfection is attainable – just ask plastic surgeons. Teachers’ rating of students will always be influenced by students’ words and characters.

Knowing how presenting their students with low grades would likely diminish students’ chances at having a wide scope of decent educational and vocational options, most instructors would be tempted to twist their policies to boost the grades of underachieving students.

However, do extra-credit assignments not undermine the significance of classwork?

While there might not currently be any reliable and universally-accepted grading method other than examination, a new approach ought to be introduced to ensure the performance of students, who face temporary difficulties or are aided by a sudden flash of genius (aka cheating), is evaluated accurately.

If the system is to be honest about its own promotion of individuality, it must find a way to establish a one-to-one relationship between students and instructors, whereby teachers’ rating of students’ overall knowledge about a certain subject, ability to grasp material and other attributes form the final evaluation.

But the grade, which in itself becomes an obsession for students, can be something other than an ABCDF ladder.

A committee, formed by the different instructors in a department, evaluates the students’ performances on annual basis. Different teachers can say their opinion about the student, based on their rating of a student’s skills, abilities and knowledge.

Exams would no longer be relied upon in evaluating students. Students would bid farewell to the inconsistency of exams, and instead focus on grasping the material and proving –through personal contact with their instructors– that they have acquired knowledge from the course.

But even the current system would not seem too monstrous and inefficient had students not been exploiting its loop holes. However, it is not entirely their fault; they have been raised in a world that supports the unbalanced consumer-producer relation and justifies the means if they lead to the desired ends.

Three credits –added up by attending three easy A, one-credit courses– are calculated based on the same point-accumulation scheme regardless of the courses taken.

I, therefore, modestly salute the moral and cultured students who would rather register for a Cultural Studies or History of Art course as a free elective to grab knowledge with willing hands.

After all, a student with the right principles could have taken easy A courses and registered their names on the parade team list where the celebrated bunch, who always manage to be more equal than others, hear their names at the sound of rusty trumpets.

The views expressed in opinion articles do not represent the position of the LAU Tribune on the topic.

By Zahi Sahli
LAU Tribune staff

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