AB eyeing higher passing grade, uniform transmutation system

'Grade inflation' observed in education industry due to pandemic set-up, says faculty official
File photo of The Flame

THE UST Faculty of Arts and Letters (AB) administration is seeking to raise the college’s 50% passing grade to “maintain quality” in delivering its programs.

Artlets Dean Prof. Melanie Turingan said the move is part of the faculty’s goal to improve the skills of students. However, there is still no specific date as to when the increase in the passing grade would be made, she said.

“We hope to increase the 50% passing grade not because we want to make it harder for the students; we want to maintain quality. But of course, this will happen in consultation with you,” Turingan told The Flame in an interview.

“We are still looking for the best practices because, of course, we would not want to impose a policy that we would regret in the end,” she added.

The dean said that academic leniency during the COVID-19 pandemic may have led to an increase in the number of Latin honor graduates in the college.

“I want to say that this does not only happen in AB but in the entire University. So it seems that there are many graduates with [Latin] honors but I don’t see it necessarily as a bad thing. They deserve it, so it was awarded to them,” Turingan said when asked if she believed there was grade inflation in the faculty.

“But perhaps there was leniency, especially during online [classes] since, of course, onsite experience is still different…[as] there are others who are not as attuned during online classes. There are many factors.”

In 2023, about 74% or 666 of the 899 Artlets graduates finished their bachelor’s degree with Latin honors. Of these, 22 students graduated summa cum laude, 240 magna cum laude and 404 cum laude.

Batch 2023 largely consisted of students who were forced to shift to online classes in 2020 due to COVID-19 lockdowns. Students of the batch did not experience onsite learning until 2022, when UST began transitioning to a hybrid setup.

READ: 74% of UST Artlets seniors to graduate with Latin honors

The percentage of students with Latin honors is much higher than the pre-pandemic turnouts. In 2019, about 273 of 1,303 graduating students had Latin honors, which translates to 20.87% of the batch.

Batches 2017 and 2018, saw 22.57% and 23.86% of their graduates, respectively, earning their degrees with honors.

Grade inflation?

Artlets faculty secretary Asst. Prof. Louie Benedict Ignacio noted that the percentage of Latin awardees during the pandemic set-up was higher. However, he clarified that plans to adjust the faculty’s grading system are not a deliberate move to tighten the college’s instruction delivery.

“This is not to devalue the capacity of our students to really excel since it is possible that everyone is really skilled. But the reality is in the entire education industry, it is observed that because of the pandemic and the setup, there is and was a grade inflation,” Ignacio told The Flame.

“The proposal to increase the passing grade is not only targeted at reducing the number of students with Latin honors, it’s a re-evaluation, recalibration of our grading system to make sure that we maintain quality across programs and we can be at par with what the industry demands.”

Ignacio, also AB’s quality management representative, said new strategies must be evaluated for classroom management, such as the delivery of instruction and grading system, to ensure that the competencies in each program are met.

“We really have to look at the factors affecting it (grading system) so we can propose an improvement on the system, not necessarily saying [that] it’s not working but more of an improvement,” he added.

In its 2020 collective institutional guidelines, UST implemented a “no fail policy” wherein course instructors must only give undergraduate students a final numerical grade ranging from 1.00 to 3.00.

Students at risk of failing or who have failed to submit one or more class requirements due to health concerns and limited access to resources were to be given a remark of INP (In Progress), which allowed them to accomplish their requirements until the end of the term.

The policy also allowed INP students to enroll for their succeeding courses “even if the course with INP is a pre-requisite,” giving them one term to accomplish their requirements without the need to re-enroll.

Remarks like a grade of 5.00, WP (Withdrew with Permission), WF (Withdrew without Permission), FA (Failure due to Absences), and INC (Incomplete) were not used “except if the dropping of courses has already been processed” before the enhanced community quarantine.

Under normal circumstances, however, students who failed to submit their class requirements would receive an INC remark and would not be allowed to enroll for succeeding courses until they fulfill their missing pre-requisites.

Grade uniformity sought

Aside from increasing its passing grade, the faculty is also seeking uniformity in grade transmutation among its programs.

The legal management program remains the only one with a zero-based grading system. Its grading system entails no transmutation of students’ grades. Raw scores are translated based on the five-point grading scale.

“It’s a matter of adjusting the mode of instruction, the kind of assessment and reviewing how internally with LM (legal management) the faculty members will grade and assess the students,” Ignacio said.

In computing grades, the general rule is to transmute them only once, the faculty secretary added.

During former AB dean Jacqueline Lopez-Kaw’s term, three templates of the grade sheet for general education courses and professional courses were provided to the teaching staff. The professional courses have two templates, with one requiring the educator to transmute both the preliminary and final grades before getting its average, and the other computing for all grades acquired in the whole term.

The general education template involves transmuting both preliminary and final grades before averaging them.

The faculty members could either transmute the grade per assessment or the overall grade for prelims and finals, according to Ignacio and Turingan.

“Although the discrepancy is very minimal to the point that when you round off, you will end up with the same [grade] but still, there is variation. So, maybe [we should] uniformize [the grading system] first before [we] increase [the passing grade],” Turingan noted. F – with reports from Nicole Anne Bautista and Pauline Nicole Bautista

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