It could be a bit inappropriate to ask this question now, but are your GPAs satisfactory enough? There will be all kinds of people: those who do love theirs, those who think they are not too bad, and those who have developed hatred towards their GPAs. If you belong to the last party, here is a small excuse for your poor GPAs, which is “HakJjaSaDal” (although not a fundamental solution!). HakJjaSaDal, a Korean abbreviation for the phrase, “Although GPAs are stingy as salt, our love towards you students is sweet!” is a slogan CAU faculties have been supporting recently. This slogan well represents CAU’s image for being stingy on GPAs through a humorous short sentence. But come to think of it, HakJjaSaDal could be an annoying joke towards students who are struggling in the race for better GPAs, and ultimately for employment opportunities. If it is GPAs that hurt students’ careers even amidst this “grade inflation” society, would the slogan still be funny?
Stingy on GPA!
CAU’s “stingy as salt” GPA distribution is seen quite explicitly on several indexes. CAU, for the last four years, has stayed on top place for giving out the least number of A grades, maintaining 28~33 percent. Even Sogang and Sungkyunkwan University, past rivals of CAU (the closest), seems to have become more generous on GPAs, respectively marking about 40 and 50 percent As. Compared to other universities’ changes, CAU still crawls on at around 30 percent. CAU definitely is lagging behind the trend.
The stinginess of GPAs seems also to be felt clearly by the students as well. A short survey was conducted to investigate the opinions of CAU students regarding HakJjaSaDal. Out of the total of 49 participants, 38.8% were already unsatisfied about their grades, and among them more than half thought they deserved better. In addition, among those who responded, they did not agree with HakJjaSaDal, as 41.5% were already worrying about the disadvantages that may exist afterwards in their careers. Meanwhile, those who agreed with HakJjaSaDal were mostly content with the current GPA distribution (37.5%), adding that it helps determine grades accurately and that it motivates students to study harder (25% each).
Why HakJjaSaDal, Though?
Then why are GPAs staying stingy? Although this is a sensitive issue for many, we examined some reasons why, as emotional responses solely cannot solve the problem. Amidst the era of grade inflation, HakJjaSaDal may be the last bastion of CAU’s creed. In fact, the grade inflation phenomena is not something to appreciate at all in the first place. In Korea, nine out of ten four-year-course college graduates receive at least an average GPA of B, and among eight major universities located in Seoul, more than half mark an A. These kind of statistics cannot simply be explained by the hardworking attitude of students. Commonly, the degree of effort each individual puts into study differs greatly, but if the criteria for dividing groups of students’ grades are too loose, it will not only cause confusion, but also tarnish the meaning of excellence. Therefore, if such a complacent idea that “A’s are easy to receive” prevails, downward standardization of learning effort and capability is an inevitable consequence.
Moreover, assignments like team projects require collective effort, so it is almost impossible not to experience free-riding problems. But if everyone gets a generous grade, the situation will be inapprehensible for those who have truly devoted themselves into the team project. That is how distrust for grades grow and how professors’ paternalism could thus backfire. Therefore, CAU’s support for HakJjaSaDal does not seem completely groundless. If a university’s aim is to develop academic discipline, a grade of A should be a credible standard of judging excellence, not something everyone can earn.
Hindrance to Employment?
But the ideal and the real do not always coincide. In reality, getting a job is the essence of what we call social success and thus in the current unemployment crisis everyone struggles to stack up better “specs.” As a result, GPAs stand crucial in the job race. If difficult to prove by visible indicators, even the highest levels of “spec” knowledge will not really appeal to companies. Although companies claim to have emphasized the importance of working skills, GPAs remain as a deciding factor when having to analyze candidates never seen before. Moreover, only in rare cases will companies prefer to recruit a candidate with lower GPAs between two with similar educational backgrounds. This is not to ignore the endeavors of other university students, but at least according to aforementioned indexes, CAU students are most likely to receive relatively low GPAs on the assumption that all academic abilities are equal. Therefore, disadvantages are unavoidable for CAU graduates in their job searches.
What is more is that President Moon is pushing ahead the “Blind Recruitment System” this year. Although this policy has not yet settled perfectly, if implemented this will also add more to the already burdening employment problems of CAU students. This is because the system puts GPAs (and not the candidates’ alma maters) into top consideration. Therefore, it would be difficult to explain CAU graduates’ relatively low GPAs (if lower). The arrival of the blind recruitment system will thus pose a dilemma for CAU students who would suffer difficulties in both situations.
As an extension to the brief survey carried out by CAH, there were also subjective questions asking what students had to say about the HakJjaSaDal policy. Of course, the responses were mostly focused on alleviating HakJjaSaDal. Responses varied: giving out more A will partly relieve students of academic stress or to stimulate students to work harder a more understandable portion of A will prove to be effective. Some also expressed concern about CAU’s competitiveness later in the job market as well. Other suggestions included applying Pass/Fail systems on certain liberal arts subjects or expanding course retake opportunities. But whichever suggestion it was, students did not blindly demand for better grades. It seems that there is hope for gradual, successful reformation if students’ suggestions are reflected enough.
If the HakJjaSaDal is not something to disappear in the near future, its double-sidedness will be a task for both students and the university as a whole to solve. In fact, amidst the grade inflation phenomenon, CAU’s slogan does not seem too erroneous since even those who had evaluated the current GPA distribution as stingy (in the survey’s short-answer question) did not want a radical change. But taking a realistic approach to the issue, it is possible to conclude that for the welfare of students, at least a bit of an improvement seems necessary. < 저작권자 © 중앙헤럴드 무단전재 및 재배포금지 >