Thursday, January 5, 2012

Need of a same Grading System in all Pakistani Universities

The college graduate is presented with a sheepskin to cover his intellectual nakedness. -- Robert M. Hutchins. Every Pakistani university has adopted his own grading system in the last 10 years with the change from the annual system to semester system. As a result, it is not easy to judge the student's performance during his course, by some outsider only on the basis of his transcript report. In a single grading system (good or bad) atleast a student from any university can be compared with another one. Why it cannot happen with different grading systems?

As soon as the system was shifted from the annual system to semester system, absolute grading system of the annual system was shifted to the new one with some modification. The biggest shift was that question papers started to be prepared, checked and graded by the teacher who teaches the subject. The idea behind this shift was that teacher who teaches the subject, can judge the student more than anyone else. But no one has ever bothered to make a standard on which paper by the teacher can be judged. The teachers started to develop low quality sub-standard papers to get good grades of the class to show that they are teaching excellently and those who had tried to judge the students with the quality paper soon become bad in the eyes of the authorities due to low grades as according to them, these are the teacher's result not students. Students coming from this absolute system, mostly fail to perform equivalent to their grades in their result cards.

Some of the public and private sector Pakistani universities have started to shift from the absolute system to their own relative grading system. The mostly adopted relative system is the one in which marks of the whole class is averaged and given 'C+' in bachelors and 'B' in master degrees. Argue presented for this system is that teacher will not have to make a sub-standard paper. A good student will still be able to make 'A' grade even if the quality of the paper is very high as he will have more marks than any of his class fellows. While implementing this system universities fail to understand that this system was developed for the classes where strength of the students should be above 100 whereas in our engineering colleges or universities, on an average a class mostly has 25 to 50 students. The smaller the class, the problem of higher average becomes more prominent and as a consequence even the good student becomes victim of low grade if most of his fellow students are also good in study. This problem leads to another problem as well, as the fear of high average comes to the mind of the students, they have stopped helping each other in the studies. Apart from this, most of the students coming from this system perform better in the industry even with low grades but when they try to apply for higher studies within or outside Pakistan, normally these students, not able to get admission as they use to have low grades as compare to the students coming from the universities having absolute system. Here again, student’s grades do not represent their quality.

In conclusion we can say either a student coming from absolute system or relative grading system; his grades do not represent him. There is a need that there should be one standard all over the country either it is absolute or relative. At least then, one can be compared with some other on the basis of result card and everyone should get his fare chance of higher education as well as jobs.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Semester System in Pakistani Universities

"It is possible to store the mind with a million facts and still be entirely uneducated." -- Alec Bourne, A Doctor's Creed. Today almost every university of Pakistan have adopted the semester system as its core educational system. Is it really serving the need of the student?

In most of Pakistani universities, semester last for 16 to 18 weeks. Most of the students like the semester system because it ends quickly as compare to annual system. They don’t have to wait for the whole year. This seems good but what I have seen that due to lack of time, students do not absorb the subject properly. As the semester goes, they forgot everything they have learned during the semester system.

Students are evaluated number of times during semester with 3 exams (First, mid and final session), minimum 4 quizzes and 4 assignments for each subjects (normally six subjects during one semester) and if the subject is with labs then add minimum two lab assignments and 3 lab sessionals. So the biggest argument for semester system is that as compare to annual system, semester system is supposed to be better as it keeps the students busy during whole tenure. But the students lose interest with the subjects in the semester system as they are always overloaded. So instead of doing things honestly they mostly try to cheat specially in assignments. J. Bronowski said "It is important that students bring a certain ragamuffin, barefoot, irreverence to their studies; they are not here to worship what is known, but to question it". But in our current system we overload them with what is known rather than helping them to think and question them. So sad!

We have seen number of times that students who perform good or excellent in the annual system during Matric or FSC exams, only perform on an average in the semester system and vice versa. Why it is happening again and again? Most of the people argue that it is due to cramming (rata system) which students adopt in annual system while it does not work here. In my view the actual reason behind this problem is that, semester system is much easier for the student who studies teacher rather than the subject being taught by the teacher. Funny isn’t it? But it is true. In semester system, teacher who teaches, prepare the question paper. Secondly, for the last 10 years, I have seen that mostly all the teachers repeat their paper with little or no modification. So most student who just study subjects sometime feel trouble while who have studied teacher can guess what could come in the exam.

A university is what a college becomes when the faculty loses interest in students”.- John Ciardi. During last four years as a lecturer, I have seen that fellow teachers and authorities love the semester system and both have their own reasons. Teachers like because they have less pressure on them as compare to the teacher in annual system. Just imagine a teacher teaching a tenth class in a school for matric exam. He doesn’t know that paper will be tough for class or not. Whereas in semester system teacher adjust his paper according to what he thinks is the level of the class. Similarly the authorities of the universities never bother how the teacher is teaching; they are more concerned with the research activity of the teachers for their ranking. So both teachers and university authorities like the semester system because semester system helps the teacher by giving him relax environment and to authorities improved ranking in terms of research papers. But does anyone care about the student intellectual level?

If we talk about extracurricular activities, a student studying in the semester system have no time for these things. If he/she will try for it, he/she will suffer in his/her CGPA. We use to teach the proverb “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy”, but never understand it and never try to implement it as well. Semester system of Pakistani Universities is clearly making dull boys and girls. We are neither excelling in sports and nor in education.

In my personal view, semester system is good for the students but the way it is implemented in our universities have killed its main purpose. Universities claims that their students are free to choose any subject from the whole curriculum but mostly do the opposite and bond the students with fixed subjects that the student have to study during a semester. This should be changed. Second the over burden of quizzes, assignment and number of exams should be removed. If we see the example of “University of Melbourne, Australia”, semester system there, is implemented in a very different way. No quiz, some assignments, only one exam after the semester and a two weeks holiday before the exams, gives lot of time for the students to revise, absorb and prepare. As a result less burden during semester and lot of time after semester give them the opportunity to absorb the subject properly. I wish this kind of semester system should be implemented in Pakistan. The more the student gets time, more he absorbs the subject, more he can learn and more he can get benefit.