When I first started school in Canada (grade 11) I had no idea what to expect. Coming from Lebanon, I thought that I would have to make immense efforts to be able to catch up with the educational program here particularly in English since my former school taught it only as a third language. Averages in my former school were listed on a twenty scale ( /20). My class average fro grade 10 was 12/20 and my general average was 14/20. A modest and respectable grade, yet when I came here, hearing how the class average for each course is around 75% (a 15/20 which is considered an excellent grade in Lebanon) I trembled as to how am I going to be compared. When my grades were being “converted” my 16/20 in French (80%) became a 94%.
Grade inflation, just like financial inflation, is when a mark’s worth decreases over time due to awarding students a higher grade for work that in the past would have merited a lower grade. This problem has been present ever since the 1960’s when provincial wide exams were abolished in Canada thus destroying the only method to test all students objectively (since the correctors mark students from all high schools and do not give any preference to any one student). As a result, the averages go up, and admissions to university programs require a higher and higher average each year. But this problem is not limited only to Canadian schools.
“When the Ontario Scholar program was introduced in the 1960s, average performers were C-students and A-students were considered exceptional, Côté said. Now, 90 per cent of Ontario students have a B average or above, and 60 per cent of students applying to university have an A average.” (Michael Woods, The Journal 09/19/2008)
Universities are subject to it too. And the consequences are catastrophic.
Because grades become worth less, so do degrees. And as a result job positions now require higher degrees than they did in the past. Nowadays, a bachelor in science is a fraction’s worth of what it was in the past. Most jobs in the scientific field nowadays with a medium to high income require a Master’s or PhD degree. To add, the student GPA becomes less and less reliable at distinguishing exceptional students from average students and as a consequence students have to try to distinguish themselves in another way.
All this to say, the nightmare of national exams at the end of high school fades next to the idea of jobless, overqualified graduates.