Some might say the new policy was brash and flatfooted; it was only imperative to make such stern and critical decision.
Take a look at the following statistics on the GPA of the students who graduated in 2011. Out of 4,322 students who graduated from Korea University in 2011, 9.4 percent of the students had an “A+” range GPA and 36 percent graduated with an “A” range GPA. In the case of Hankuk University of Foreign Studies (HUFS), total 38.3 percent of students graduated with GPA above “A” range and the average GPA of the students were 3.7 out of 4.5 scales—marked the highest average GPA among universities in Seoul.
Whereas, of the 1,764 students who graduated from Sogang University only 1.2 percent of the students were at “A+” range and 8.4 percent at “A” range. Even more to that, their average GPA was only 3.2 out of 4.5—a rather baffling number of 0.5 point less than HUFS’s average GPA.
Ewha has rather reasonable grade dispersion; average GPA of 3.3 out of 3.5 scales; 4.3 percent of “A+”range students and 16.6 percent “A” range students.
As shown, a grading system among Korean universities lacks a bounding system. Each university has different grading scales and proportions within each grade. For example, three fourth of the universities in Seoul do not have “A-” grading system.
What make the situation worse are unstandardized course retake policies. Ewha limits course retakes to grades under “C+” of each course and gives a maximum of “A-” to retook courses.
However, some universities do not set retake-able limits nor have maximum grades they can give for retaken courses. Rather the opposite to strengthening retake regulations, Kyunghee University recently decided to ease its course retake policy and took away the maximum grade limit. Reportedly, it was to give wider chance of employment to job-searching students.
Does issuing more and more “A”s give better chance of winning a nice work position or getting into prestigious graduate schools? More “A”s become futile and it will only bluntly dilute the value of the “A.” Basic economics explains less scarce, the less value. In short span, glimmering “A”s on transcript may look more attractive but it will only counteract in the long run. GPA without cogency is less than useless. It is already widely known that many graduate schools abroad and corporations have long been discrediting the GPAs from Korean universities.
There are ways to rebuild the lost credibility. Yonsei’s decision to abolish course retakes will be pernicious to the students, who have to bear the system in the stifling job market. Yet, by and by, it will lead towards a more accountable grading system among universities; hopefully, a more fair GPA market too.
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