Well, yes. To a certain extent. It helps in making you panic, especially so when you are a holder of a scholarship.

I am not a particularly bright student and my grades came through sheer hours of hard work. Sometimes, the hard work would only get me a pass – and there’s probably no way for a, ahem, self-proclaimed biologist to do well in subjects like… distributed computing. The best I have scored was 89 out of 100 for that latter subject – and mind you, that was below the mean, mode and median (I affectionately call it “3M”; on the side – if you score below the 3M, you are pretty much out of the league; an academic warning is imminent) of the class.

Yes, it was that bad. Nothing could have (or rather, is going to) prevent an academic warning from coming my way.

But you see, academic warnings are retrospective. That is, if I have done poorly for a subject, there’s nothing I can do to remedy that. The grade is in, and hence the repercussions of that is a lower CGPA. It’s easy to go down, but hard like hell to climb up. I should know that better. If the focus is really on letting the student learn, then perhaps some form of help should have been rendered to struggling students *way* before the exams; and this leads us to the dreaded common tests. For me, it’s more like a common common test – and no, it’s not a typo because there are really professors who take the term “common test” quite literally – something that you do “of frequent occurrence” (to quote http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/common).

Yes, I have common tests every week, and I have common tests every other week; overlapping with the ones that happen every week; and to top it all, I now have a lecturer who is going to give what she calls a “mini exam”. With the exception of 1 or 2, most lecturers will mark our scripts, give us the marks (if they even do) and tell us how we should “work harder” – without any hint of what we can do. Worse, we don’t even know where we went wrong! I borrowed books, shipped books from amazon.com, run though notes that were made available by Google on the Internet – and I still ended up scoring way below the class 3M.

Why?

It’s probably because I have no inkling of what’s going on during class – and mind you again, I’m not someone who sleeps in class or surf the Internet or do anything else except listening to the lecturer. However, the topic(s) could have encompassed so many sub-topics that in itself is a course by itself, then the learning curve is going to be very, very sharp. I am not sure how many can empathize with me.

So, there’s continual assessment that’s meant to mark out (yes, I hate to use this word) the weaker students which helps to – and quoting The Mainstream Media, “advise someone to improve on his academic performance and urging him or her to do his or her best in the coming examinations” is not really going to help much. What the student will get is added pressure because he or she knows that he or she is, in a pretty crude sense, “screwed”.

And I heard that the institution that’s giving out the academic warnings also send copies of it to the parents of the scholarship holder; well, maybe not for all scholarships, I hope.

I have had friends who have received academic warnings after the exams and while I am not sure about what the content is (I have no wish to know it on first account), they didn’t seem to be able to do anything. Well, that again, is because the warnings are retrospective. Since the subjects/difficulty of the subjects vary each semester, there’s a chance that a person may do well in the next exams… or “screw up” just as badly. Still, I don’t see how “warning” a student can help in a pragmatic manner.

So, ideally, when a student does badly in a particular exam, academic warnings are send out to him/her asking them to seek help if necessary. Personally, I can’t figure out how that’s going to help me (or anyone) except that I would “wake up my senses”. However, if my senses are already woken up in the prior semester, and have already put in my best, then I can either pray (or work 100x harder, of course, this may have psychological repercussions) that the next set of subjects are going to be “easier” or “something I am familiar” with, or… perhaps I should just sign the Withdrawal Form.

While I admit that administering to over tens of thousands of students is no mean feat, but issuing out retrospective academic warnings to students (who are going to take a different set of subjects the follow semester) is not going to help much except to give them “two tight slaps on the face”. If the school (meaning, from the administrative office to the lecturers) is not going to be supportive of the student in terms of helping him learn, then no amount of academic warnings is going to help and we should all just retreat to e-learning. In this case, the school can save on hiring lecturers and probably use the money saved to send out more academic warnings.



Reader's Comments

  1. ricE | March 5th, 2009 at 4:43 pm

    Yup, let’s say well, you found a new personal interest –> spend more time with the new personal interest –> neglect studies –> bad grades. So the warning letter is just to tell you to, well, give up studies and concentrate on what makes you happy.

    Schools just have this mindset that if you get bad grades, it has to be something personal, which means they cant help, and you have to seek help elsewhere, which they dont really care.

  2. Eugene | March 10th, 2009 at 10:36 am

    Yep, it seems like to schools, ‘due diligence’ simply comes down to just the warning, and little follow-ups except what the lecturer is willing to personally do.

    On the solution-side, it sometimes doesn’t help to simply ‘study harder’. I find it more fruitful to analyze w-h-y my efforts aren’t paying off more effectively. Sure, our genetic or family-bred intelligence plays a part, but a change in study strategy also helps. e.g. what may be needed is a change in focus (study differently), or maybe I needed a ‘eureka!’ moment to grasp a critical concept that makes everything easier or more effective.

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