This week I was exposed to this: http://www.independent.co.uk/student/news/something-for-the-slackers-to-focus-on-a-21-degree-is-worth-around-80k-more-to-you-than-a-22-8764130.html#comment-1006387646 and the rage I felt has prompted me to write this piece on the sheer laziness of the university grading system. As a matter of interest, I was the recipient of a 2:2 and though I have come a long way from the 21-year-old I was, the stigma of that grade hangs over me. In social situations - accompanied by slightly incredulous glances and not a little bit of contempt. There is something very very wrong in a society that allows one grouped number to determine the outcome of your life (we aren't so far away from the dystopian society I fear).
In a nutshell - I failed to get a 2:1 so I became the most pointless person ever to walk the planet - this includes a certain level of contempt from my then group of friends and a certain level of disappointment from my parents, leading to the tentative job offers I'd had disappearing into the ether. By September 2008, I was homeless, friendless (I could be the poster child for '2:2s Ruin Lives') and pawning jewellery so I would have money to eat and sleeping on the couches of various friends before finding a job in a café.
Do I blame myself? Of course! I got a 2:2. I do agree that there is a certain slacker element as to why I personally got a 2:2. BUT let me ask you this. Technically a 2:2 is a passing grade is it not? Does it say anywhere in any university handbook that 'If you get a 2:2 you have shot yourself in the foot and will now have to limp along the assembly line of life' There are people out there saying: Anyone can get a 2:1 right? And be partying every single night. I bet they can. In fact most of the 'friends' I had did exactly that.
Here's what I suggest, stop fooling us. Stop telling us that 2:2s and 3rds are passing grades because they're not. Passing grades for what? What will a 2:2 or a 3rd get you that a decent apprenticeship won't? Because remember everyone gets 2:1s so you, with your poxy 2:2 are going to be bottom of the barrel - unless of course you Know the Right People so you can get in on nepotism and cruise through life on Knowing People.
Unfortunately a lot of us don't have that option. Getting 59% means you 'just' passed - on paper. In reality, no one cares because it still means you passed with putting you in the same category as someone with 69%. It's still a 2:1. And most employers (unless if you're in the fourth round interview stage and it's the only thing that distinguishes you from the other candidates) are not going to look at specific percentages. Bring back pass and fail marks. You Pass or you Fail. Simple. None of this patronizing, well look...you got a 2:2 it's 'ok' or 2:1 'congratulations you have ticked the next thing off your to-do list'. (Don't get me started on people that have no conception of what getting a 2:2 means for their life and choices as compared to someone with a 2:1).
What about the academic systems themselves? How are the people marking our assignments, papers, exams and dissertations qualified to measure out abilities and skills? Let's look at the below:
1. Most lecturers don't do PGCEs or even any teaching degrees. But they are qualified to teach highly complex subjects with what? PowerPoint slides filled with text? That isn't acceptable in any forum but it is here. People in corporate organisations are sent on courses to not do this. But for some reason, this is not required for lecturers teaching at higher education level.
2. Most tutors/lecturers honestly don't give 2 figs about their undergrad students unless if it's the ones who do study very hard - but with no prompting from the tutor. These students tend to get the bursaries and MA scholarships because a) they make their tutors look good b) with the minimum effort on their part.
(In no way am I belittling students that work hard btw, just commenting on the lazy nature of the academic set up of most institutions).
3. Questioning what you learn is only acceptable within certain parameters. As a lot of lecturers aren't taught teaching skills (those short courses really don't count), so they tend to take comments made about subjects they're knowledgeable about personally and this will affect how they grade you later on.
I've experienced university in a variety of formats. I've been the party girl, the eager-to-learn student reading as much as possible and now I'm a distance learner trying to balance working full time and studying. In my time, I have 2-3 lecturers that have reminded why I went to university on all the other occasions I have been constantly disappointed with the level of teaching, the quality of resources and the attitude that 'New is Bad'. And remember that you're shelling out £9000 for the privilege of points 1-3 you lucky thing you.
(I can accept that departments are different. And that the level and style of teaching varies across different lecturers - but not so much that the above points are not applicable across a wide range of universities in this country at the moment).
In short, I'm tired of bearing the social disgrace of a 'poor grade' that is a passing grade that was assigned to me by a cabal of tutors most of who, had not had any proper contact with me (yeah I was one of those students that tutors sat down and talked about and decided which grade to assign to me because I was on the cusp). And when I read articles that mark me as a 'slacker' and make sweeping judgments that I will earn less in my lifetime, well, I can't help but get very annoyed.
Education has become a game to play and to win - it's not so different from Mario: Jump through the hoop, collect those stars and make it to the checkpoint - jump high enough and you get more points. Shame that no one told me the rules.