Sep 4, 2013


Have you ever gotten an “F”? If yes, when was it? Was it during your primary school? Your secondary school? High school? University? Well, I’ll admit that I did flunk during my time in NUS. In fact, I had 6 “F”s on my BSc. transcript from NUS and 2 of them were for the same subject. Yes, I took the same subject for 3 semesters and only passed it the third time. Indeed, at that time the professors and lecturers in NUS didn’t think twice about failing their students. It was pretty common to fail a couple during our 3 or 4-year uni life. 

All the praying won't help you not flunk..
More than once I’ve heard from my seniors and friends who are teaching staff in various universities in MY and TW that it is hard to fail undergraduates nowadays. It is a common predicament for teaching staff in both countries. Most universities and their departments do not want to get complaints from parents when their son/daughter failed a subject, even if they deserved it. They will pass everyone and anyone as long as the barest of the minimum is satisfied. They will find all kinds of reasons (or should I say excuse) to give a passing grade. That is very sad: teaching staff being held hostage by unreasonable parents. Under such circumstance, how will we be able to differentiate the good from the bad when everyone passes? Just to clarify, I’m not advocating failing for the sake of failing or rigid compliance to the bell-curve grading system. If the students deserve a passing grade, then give it to them. No reason to deprive deserving students of their top grades. But if the student did not do enough to warrant a pass, then he/she should get an “F”.

Things are worst for private universities, as they can’t afford to have too high a failure rate less potential students deemed them as ‘difficult’ (thus must study very hard and have no time to play/enjoy). These private universities depend on new (student) intake for sustenance. They cannot afford to ‘scare away’ potential students by having a reputation for being ‘hard’. Therefore, these private universities have to ‘please’ their students by being lenient (in grading and syllables) and fun. All these goes against the core mission of education which is to make sure students are armed with the necessary skills to contribute to the society. Thus there is no surprise that the quality of graduates in general are plummeting. 

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