New students can go 'grade-free' as NUS looks to ease pressure on freshmen

The National University of Singapore has reduced the focus on grades for its freshmen by allowing first-year students to choose to "remove" less-than-stellar grades from their records in five modules during the first semester, on top of the
The National University of Singapore has reduced the focus on grades for its freshmen by allowing first-year students to choose to "remove" less-than-stellar grades from their records in five modules during the first semester, on top of the existing three chances all students get in the remaining terms. -- FILE SPH

The National University of Singapore has reduced the focus on grades for its freshmen. Currently, students there can choose to "remove" less-than-stellar grades from their records in three modules any time during their undergraduate years.

However provost Tan Eng Chye has announced that from August some 6,000 first-year students will be able to exercise this option in five modules during the first semester, on top of the existing three in the remaining terms.

Prof Tan, who also blogged about the move on Wednesday evening, said he was "glad that education at NUS has been evolving and maturing, and that as a community, we are now ready to take this bold step that will hopefully lead to an even more transformative educational experience for our students. Our end vision is to seed and imbue a strong culture of inquiry, exploration and discovery at NUS".

The new initiative applies to nearly all faculties and schools in NUS: arts and social sciences, business, computing, design and environment, engineering, music, nursing and science. Known as the satisfactory/unsatisfactory option, grades are still given, but students do not have to count them towards the computation of their overall scores unless they want to. However students still have to be graded "satisfactory" or they will have to retake the module or take another.

It is hoped the scheme will remove the pressure of having to score well and encourage students to explore subjects outside their specialisation - even ones that they may not be confident in.

NUS hopes to put in place a full grade-free first year eventually, but is taking a "measured approach" to see how faculty and students will respond, Prof Tan said.

The law faculty will also not be giving grades to its 230 freshmen in August.

In total, together with the Yong Loo Lin School of Medicine and Yale-NUS College which have implemented their own grade-free systems, close to 6,700 NUS freshmen will not be fretting about their exam results when they start school.

The dentistry faculty is also planning its own "gradeless" scheme.

 

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