Wetenschap - 2 februari 2012

'A 5 is not a pass'

More and more universities accept 5 on the grades list of first year students as a pass to enable them to move up to the next academic year. Students are then required to compensate by scoring a 7. Martin Mulder, chairman of the Social Sciences Examination Committee and professor of Education and Competency Studies, has his doubts. 'A 5 is not a pass.

Wageningen has a 5-ruling too, already for more than ten years. This is used as a stimulus. A student is allowed one grade 5 if he passes all the subjects in the first year. This motivates students to complete everything on time. This approach is fine.'
'On the other hand, suppose we were to implement this in Medicine. You don't want to end up with practising doctors without a good knowledge of the basics. This should of course apply to all arts and scienct graduates as well. Although a 5 in the first year could be accepted as a borderline case for them, it should not be part of a general compensation ruling. If someone gets a 5, he is very likely to fail in subsequent courses. That 5 would eventually cost the universities more teaching and supervision time and therefore, more money.
'There is also a danger that the education quality and value of the degree will suffer as a result. This is also why student organizations object to the 5-ruling; they are afraid of Inholland-like cases. I understand their concerns, because this ruling is now being implemented by more universities to limit study delay, so as to raise the pass rate and therefore raise the institution's incomes. This is a strategic move and we should come down hard on it.
'The quality of education should come first. This quality can be safe-guarded by having good teaching, good examinations, good examination regulations and a good quality system for examinations. The examination committees in Wageningen are currently working on a quality assurance system. It is important that we do not compromise on standards or dish out sixes in compassion. This is purely to our own interests, since dubious quality will affect the reputation of the study programme and student enrolment.'

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