LAHORE: The Government College University (GCU) is going to replace a 22-year-old relative grading system with a rubric-based absolute marking system.

GCU VC Prof Dr Asghar Zaidi chaired the first meeting of the committee to review the current relative marking system on Thursday, which was attended by deans and faculty members of the university. The students from all faculties were also invited to the meeting and share their views about the grading. They highlighted that the relative grading involved bringing together grading of multiple sections. Since teachers’ evaluation methods varied and the good students in some sections would end up with less grade point average (GPA), resulting in affecting their applications for scholarships and higher studies.

Explaining the new system to Dawn, Mr Zaidi termed rubric a method to give descriptive grades to the students analysing their learning outcomes about the subjects.

“The system would check the learning outcomes of the students and would assigns grades according to it. The system will check what a student knows about the basics of the subject, his/her writing skills, and critical thinking employed in defining the subject.”

For example, he added, if a student would write an essay, the university would have to check what’s the basics of the essay, its language, writing skill and also critical thinking to express his/her point of view about the subject. He said suppose a good student was given 70 marks, if his/her language was also good it would also increase the marks while critical thinking would raise the marks further.

Mr Zaidi said the GCU would switch from the relative grading system to absolute grading system.

The relative grading system was introduced 22 years ago at the GCU and despite its serious shortcomings, the university was sticking to it.

“The problem is that the relative grading system assigns high grades to those students who are at the top of the class. Thus, for example, someone who has scored 70 marks and is at the top of the class, he/she will be assigned A+ (despite not quite reaching the learning outcomes expected from the A+ student).”

Only the absolute grading system was consistent with the rubric-based assessment of the students, he added.

Mr Zaidi said a majority of other Pakistan’s universities had an absolute grading system and “the GCU students are at a disadvantage when they are compared in jobs and scholarship competitions on the basis of the CGPA”.

He said the relative grading system discouraged classroom collaboration because the students needed to do better than other students to get good grades.

Prof Zaidi said they were reviewing this 22-year-old grading policy, especially because it put students at a disadvantage in external competitions. He said contemporary universities could not afford sticking to decades-old practices.

“We must replicate the best academic practices at other top institutions to keep ourselves relevant to the changing world.”

Prof Zaidi said they did not mean to give high grades to students by adopting the absolute marking system.

“Marks must reflect students’ skills and knowledge.”

He said rubrics would make marking fairer and the teachers would design a rubric for each evaluation component of their courses.

“Rubrics will be shared with the students when a semester begins and it is the right of every student to know what makes a good answer,” he explained.

The VC added that the chairpersons of various departments of the university would ensure that the teachers evaluated scripts according to the given rubrics.

The GCU controller of examinations informed the committee that in the first phase, students in each section would be graded relatively and in the second phase, from Fall-2021 onwards, the university would follow a policy of absolute grading system based on rubrics.

Published in Dawn, May 7th, 2021

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