Forum: Singapore universities should consider a grade-free semester

Students studying at the Singapore Institute of Management, on March 12, 2020.
Students studying at the Singapore Institute of Management, on March 12, 2020.ST PHOTO: CHONG JUN LIANG

Recently, the National University of Singapore (NUS) said a significant number of students had allegedly plagiarised one another during an exam that was allowed to be taken at home, given the coronavirus pandemic (NUS students allegedly abuse Covid-19 measures to cheat during exam, March 20)

Universities across Singapore have done well in transitioning to digital platforms, with most classes continuing as per normal online. Lessons learnt from past crises, such as during the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak, have led to today's preparedness in terms of having alternatives for work and education.

Across the world, many campuses have begun to offer pass/fail grading options for their students.

Universities in Singapore should consider providing a grade-free semester for their students.

In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, courses that require laboratory sessions, practical exams and projects involving interaction with the community have been cancelled.

Given that content has to be delivered through alternative methods, students will now be subjected to a modified grading system at their faculty's discretion. Is this grading system fair?

Both educators and students will stand to benefit from a pass/fail policy. A balance can be achieved with professors focusing on engaging students in new circumstances rather than thinking of how to test them without them cheating.

At the same time, students will be able to focus on the joy of learning and being responsible citizens in a trying period without worrying about failing their exams.

Even though some students who are at the top of the grading bell curve may deem this move unfair, it should be emphasised that academic excellence is nowhere comparable to the importance of global public health.

At a time like this, should our students really still be worrying about getting that A grade to maintain a 5.0 grade point average?

At a time like this, should our students really still be worrying about getting that A grade to maintain a 5.0 grade point average?

Ultimately, this is a test to show what we value, and I personally hope that we choose our people over academic capabilities.

Jazreel Tay Hui Ying

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 25, 2020, with the headline 'Singapore universities should consider a grade-free semester'. Print Edition | Subscribe