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January 9, 2015

or more appropriately “Teachers who discriminate”

Being a teacher has a lot of power. The power of imparting knowledge and the power to give grades. Undoubtedly, the part about imparting knowledge is the most important part in the role of a teacher. But for students, who generally are desperate for a good grade, it is hard to convince (especially in Singapore or Shanghai and especially near the final exams) them that what one learns from a class is far more important that what grade one gets.

” With knowledge comes good grade.”

Undoubtedly, once you become one with the professor in knowledge, the grade you get is immaterial.  And with enough practising and learning, a student who reach the level of his/her professor, never worries about the grade. This, of course, is the highest kind of learning seldom seen or realized in contemporary schools but highly sought after in doctoral level of the best schools and certainly in Zen schools.

That aside, grading hybrid and grading schemes are usually undemocratic. The student(s) have little or no say in how the final grade is decided. In the late eighties in NUS, my grades for the exam (there was only one exam for each subject every year) was totally mysterious. One never saw his exam papers back and some who requested to be re-graded, had to write letters of appeal and after many bureaucratic steps.  After that, the “reply” from some reviewers (assigned by the university) is 99%

”Dear Sir, we made a review and found no mistakes on the grading of the papers.  Sincerely yours,…“

I never had to request but I know students who do, and none of them won in the appeal and had to re-take their exams.

Today I am teaching in a “democratic” region in the USA and students often in class, voice their opinion on how their overall grade for the semester should be calculated.

“Drop the lowest mid term Exams”

“If the Final is an A, the student should receive an A!”

These and most comments I know are usually words from students who were desperate or students who never gave much thoughts and who certainly would not do likewise when they became teachers.

In short. the teachers rule. Especially so in the university. The process cannot be made democratic, other-wise, we will slowly evolve into a system where most students will get good grade (not that grade inflation is not happening).

But with the power that the professor have, it is not uncommon that some were discriminating or “profiling certain students”. Technically, it is closed to impossible to catch a discriminating professor. The final decision lie entirely in him. A student could be doing badly the whole entire semester but suddenly he/she gain insight into how things should be done and the professor could see much values in that and gave him/her an A, citing reasons like, “this could be intellectual value in my papers” or “this is publishable material”

Yutta (勇太) from my previous blog was enrolled in McMaster University and got all As in his subject except this one where he got an A-minus (Religious Studies, I think) because he said the teacher generally do not like Taoist or Buddhist students.

Grades are like “money”, or “reward”.  It tells little or nothing.  When the course is over, it’s always the knowledge and the power from the knowledge that remains and the skill that the student acquire could never be taken/stolen from him.  Now that is what good teachers want.  That intangible “results” in teaching is usually what drives most good teachers going till his retirement.


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