I REFER to the views on CGPA, “In a fix over classification and rating of CGPA results” and “Have a CGPA rating system that cuts across the board” (The Star, Sept 7 and Sept 11 respectively).
Back on Feb 6, 2004, I wrote in the Sunday Star Education pullout on the need for a standard yardstick on the honours system for the degrees awarded by local universities both private or government. Sad to say, no one paid any attention.
The system of awarding honours in many local universities brings to argument several issues that must be addressed to safeguard the integrity and the quality of the graduates.
Firstly, the categorisation in the system of level of class of honours in many local universities provides no provision for the award of a general degree. Granted that a programme offered is officially known as an honours programme, it does not mean that every student who passes deserves an honours degree, however.
Secondly, apart from grades scored there are no prerequisites as indications of a student’s competence in the course or subject taken as proof of his/her prowess and thus deserving an honours degree.
For example, a student needs to pass every course or subject at the first attempt. Over and above it, he needs to pass every question attempted in each paper in the final examination. Also, as a display of competence, an honours student must complete his dissertation, assignments, etc., on or before a given deadline. Added to all these, he must not have any disciplinary record especially pertaining to his academic performance. Failure to meet these criteria is an indication of a student’s academic weakness.
Thirdly, to qualify for honours a student must complete her programme within a given period.
Simply put, quality of the student can be measured by her ability to complete her studies or programme within a specific period. An extension of a stipulated period is tantamount to a student being weak. Even though she attained a high CGPA (cumulative grade point average), an extension gave a student added advantage over other students who completed their programme within a stipulated period. What is worse is that in some universities, if a student repeats a subject, her previous failed result will not be counted for the CGPA. This is unfair to those who passed at the first attempt.
Suffice to say that a student who failed to meet the criteria as described above can be classified as unsatisfactory though not to an extent warranting a failure. Therefore he deserves only a “pass” without honours.
The academic system in many countries including Malaysia has undergone great changes. Perhaps the most important is the phenomenon of “massification” which is a neologism denoting the shift from elite to nearly universal access. To reward deserving cases, stringent rules must be imposed for reasons of integrity.
If an institution wants to be and to remain at the pinnacle of excellence in academia, it has to have a gauging system of high quality respected by others as fair and just to give priority to deserving cases.
It is imperative that quality of graduates be paramount and be maintained to safeguard the reputation of an institution. When a student enters a university he must realise that it is a place where a degree is earned. He must not hope for a remedial time as preparation before entering for a course or programme.
Simply put, if a student does not meet the requirements needed, he must not be admitted. Failure to cope with a course or programme, which is normally indicated by failure in a subject or/and inability to meet deadlines, means a student is not in with the mainstream group and has to be weeded out. If necessary, he must be asked to leave. Henceforth, a division is created distinguishing the straight passers from the stragglers. This division is not a case of creating a class in society as education is no longer for the elite but for everyone who meet the qualifications.
Taking two semesters to pass a subject is tantamount to using the first semester for remedial purposes and the second as the one to pass. Potential students should know what the university expects of them before setting foot on the campus. There should not be a compromise on the standard expected. Potential students must know that to be successful in a university, they must be able to work independently. With that, there will be less money and time spent on developing students’ learning skill even if subjects or courses are new to them. A positive culture is thus born in the campus for the workplace.
The allocation on education in the national budget is an indication that education here is heavily subsidised by the Federal Government. It means that funds available come mainly via taxing the working community. Therefore education is a national investment.
Conventional wisdom states that any amount invested must be cost effective and returns must be realised as soon as possible. One way is for students to graduate not only with high grades but also within a specific period. Failure to do so is tantamount to them being stragglers.
Simply put, agencies that promise to convert loans to scholarships should add the length of period in completing a programme over and above the grades achieved. Dr Arzmi Yaacob Subang Jaya The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 15 September 2015