College students say pass/fail would suit them bestKorean college students are asking for adjustments to their grades to reflect the disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic and the inconveniences of remote learning.
Many are demanding to switch graded classes to pass/fail, in what has been dubbed by local media as the battle for an “elective pass/fail grading system."
Unlike the traditional A to F grading structure, a pass/fail system comes with only two outcomes — passing or failing a course — and the student’s grade point average is unaffected. Students who pass get credit for the course, unlike those who fail.
In Korean education culture, courses that are on a pass/fail basis are usually considered marginal.
But this year, the idea is catching on, and it has obvious benefits for students who don't think they're doing well enough in a course to improve their grade point average.
Hongik University and Sogang University in western Seoul have announced plans to allow their students be graded by pass/fail in some courses if they are unsatisfied with their A to F letter grade. But other universities are refusing to follow suit, saying professors believe they should give grades.
As professors began handing out grades for this year’s spring semester in recent days, students at the universities of Yonsei, Hanyang, Kyung Hee and Ewha Womans have been organizing rallies on their campuses demanding their schools adopt measures like Hongik and Sogang.
At Hanyang University in Seongdong District, eastern Seoul, some 300 students gathered in front of the school’s main building Tuesday at 4:30 p.m. to urge the president meet them to discuss the issue. The demonstrators said they were told by the school Monday that it could not implement the pass/fail grading system and that a meeting between the president could not be held.
The student council of Ewha Womans University declared earlier this week it would stage a sit-in on the campus until students’ demands were met.
Universities like Yonsei chose to make other concessions, such as grading all students on an absolute scale rather than on a curve.
An official at a university in Seoul that adopted the absolute grading system said accommodating any further demands from students, such as pass/fail grading, could be “unfair to other students who studied hard” to get good marks.
Schools are wrapping up the first semester of learning in the time of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Most universities were supposed to start the school year on March 2, but were forced to adopt e-learning as the outbreak continued. The government advised schools not to hold in-person classes unless it was absolutely necessary. Students were asked to come to school only in exceptional cases, such as for a test or a practical lesson involving professors’ guidance.
For months, college students have been asking for refunds of their tuition, which universities have flatly rejected, citing the revenue they have lost due to the pandemic, such as international students' fees.
BY JEONG JIN-HO [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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