In the past, when students graduated from university, their grades were considered a measure of the sincerity of the universities. However, the index of grade has since lost its credibility because of hyper grade inflation. On the behest of The Ministry of Education that grade inflation must be halted, universities have changed their degree system. Thus, how do universities deal with a situation of grade inflation, where 9 out of 10 graduates get higher than a ‘B’?
Present Status of Grade Inflation
In April 2015, according to data released by the Ministry of Education and the Korean Council for University Education, 66.3% Joong-ang Sangha University students got above an ‘A’: the highest rate of all national colleges. Indeed, 52.0% of students at Korea National Sport University and 50.4% at Seoul National University got above an ‘A” grade. Furthermore, at seven universities about half of the students got ‘A’, and 82.9% of Seoul National University students got above a ‘B’. On this evidence, grade inflation is a very serious issue and is rife at many universities.
What causes grade inflation? For a university, easy course abandonment and a lower threshold for retaking a course result in grade inflation. As a result, it is easy for students to replace alower grade for a better one. Also, some universities operate systems that do not involve a statutory distribution of grades ratio, which results in grade inflation. At other universities, the course evaluation by students is reflected in a professor’s retirement evaluation, and this can provide an incentive for professors to dole out grades on the lavish side. When students evaluate professors, they tend to positively evaluate those professors who were lavish in their grade-giving. When hiring new employees, a company often judges applicants on the basis of their university grades – the better the grades, the better the chance if being hired. Certain corporations even limit the number of applicants by grade. For this reason, students make a great effort to get high grades. The poor social environment of the 1990s meant it was hard to get a job, which also resulted in grade inflation. After the IMF, a professor could assign grades at their own discretion despite the fact that they were supposed to grade on a curve. However, grade inflation came under scrutiny when a major company official said, ‘Recently, an applicant’s grade has become discredited. It is no longer important that an applicant just satisfy a standard grade set by a company. As there has been a drift away from standard qualification (Tal-spec), creating your own style is more important today.’
Because of the emphasis by many companies on good grades, students often delay their graduation as they seek to improve their grades. Of course, this can come at a social cost. In addition, cheating during exams was a common occurence. Thus, the Ministry of Education and the Korean Council for University Education advised universities about how to improve grade inflation. The Ministry of Education emphasized an ‘exactitude of giving a grade’ for university assessment as a way of university structural reform. Such structural reform is essential for universities seeking to be not ruled out of financial aid from the Ministry of Education. So, universities are carrying out the accrediting system.
Reforming The Existing Evaluation System
Some universities have changed their absolute evaluation system. Chonnam National University, for example, is implementing way to release an absolute grading system ratio by reducing the class size from 20 to 15 students for an absolute class. Hankuk University of Foreign Studies implemented an absolute system for 71% of the classes taught. The remaining 19% of classes would not be absolute because of the nature and scale of the classes in question. Reformation from an absolute system involves the implementation of relative evaluation.
Meanwhile, a 27-year-old business major named Kwon has attended university for six years. He spent a lot of time and money to get a ‘4.0 (A)’ grade. He enrolled in 30 credits to re-take the course. Considering that the maximum course credits per semester is 18, he attended the University for one more year. For this course, he spent close to 10 million won. Situations such as Kwon’s have been allowed to occur because of a loose and welcome system for re-taking a course. Thus, to solve this problem, some universities have tightened their course re-take system. Seoul National University and Cheonnam National University, among others, have lowered the maximum grade from an ‘A+’ to an ‘A’ for any retaken course. In Chung-Ang University, this year’s freshmen can retake a course if their grade is an ‘F’ for that course. A course can only be retaken three times and the maximum grade achieveable is a ‘B+’. Indeed, some universities have gone so far as to abolish their course abandonment system. The Korean Council for University Education sent out its suggestions for the improvement of grade inflation in 2013. They included content about the abolition of course abandonment and ‘F’ grade entry in academic reports for graduation assessment. Since 2014, most universities in Seoul, such as Korea Univ, Ewha Women’s Univ, Hanyang Univ, and Soongsil Univ, have abolished course abandonment. In Hansung University, subjects completed after 2015 are exempt from abandonment, and Sejong University is planning to abolish course abandonment in 2016.
What is Inha University Planning?
After looking at a record distribution of university graduates, as announced by Higher Education in Korea, in 2015, the graduate average grade percentage was 87.17 in 37 four-year universities in Incheon and Gyeonggi. The grade in our school was 87.29, very close to the average grade. 38.9% (1,528) of 3,932 graduates had a percentage grade of more than 90 (higher than ‘A’). 36.1% (14,992) of the 41,618 major grades, in the second semester of 2014, were an ‘A’. 39% (16,007) students received a ‘B’ for the same period. Thus, our university is successfully maintaining its grading system.
The Inha Times surveyed 43 Inha University students to gauge their thoughts on grade inflation.
1. Do you think that grade inflation occurs in our university?
② No- 38.1%
1-(2) (Please, only reply here if you answered ‘①Yes’ for the first question) Why do you think grade inflation occurs?
① Due to the course abandonment system - 41.7%
② Due to a loose course re-taking system - 16.7%
③ Because of the sincere efforts of every student to improve themselves - 8.3%
④ Because professors tend to award generous grades to help future job-seekers - 25%
⑤ Other reasons. - 8.3%
2. Do you think ‘moving the course abandonment period from the 9th week to the 4th week’ will help to ease grade inflation?
① Yes - 38.1%
② No - 59.5%
③ Other opinion. - 2.4%
3. Do you agree with ‘moving the course abandonment period from the 9th week to the 4th week’ for easing the grade inflation?
① Agree - 31%
② Disagree - 61.9%
③ Other opinion - 7.1%
4. Do you think the setting of a grade limit for any retaken course will result in an easing of grade inflation?
① Agree (‘A0’ is proper) - 33.3%
② The limit had to enhance (lower than ‘A0’) - 19%
③ Keep existing system (no limit) - 45.2%
④ Other opinion - 2.4%
The reduction of grade inflation will hopefully go some way in changing the perception of a company that a graduates worth is solely in their grades.
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