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Calls for pass/fail grading gain steam

Balqa Applied University can be seen in this undated photo. Calls for a different grading system based on pass/fail are gaining steam around campuses. (Photo: Balqa Applied University Facebook Page)
Balqa Applied University can be seen in this undated photo. Calls for a different grading system based on pass/fail are gaining steam around campuses. (Photo: Balqa Applied University Facebook Page)
AMMAN — Frustrated Jordanian students have taken to Twitter to call for pass/fail grading to be offered during the COVID-19 pandemic under the trending hashtag #passandfailismyright. But according to professors and some students, the pass/fail grading system is bad for both students and the universities themselves.اضافة اعلان

One university student, Abdallah Wraikat, thinks that as long as Jordanian schools depend on online learning, offering a pass/fail grading system should be mandatory. The pass/fail system is a binary grading system where students receive only a mark of “pass” or “fail” rather than the usual spectrum of letter or number grades.

“I support this grading system because I think there is a lot of unfair treatment right now when it comes to testing, with most of the professors not understanding what most students are going through, including trouble with an internet connection, personal home problems, and psychological problems because we spend most of our time studying in our rooms,” Wraikat told Jordan News.

Wraikat, who studies business administration at Balqa Applied University, tweeted about the circumstances under which students take tests: They have to focus in their lectures in order to know how to answer the questions, there is a lockdown at 7pm, and the majority of students are fasting during Ramadan.
“Of course, that leads to cheating during tests, because the tests are designed in a way where students have to focus during the class on the smallest details or it might change the students’ entire mark,” he said. 

Wraikat argued that implementing pass/fail grading “will lead to better psychological health and better education overall, because a person’s skill set is not measured by grades. It is measured by projects and real-life scenarios, in my opinion.”

However, another student suggested pass/fail grading does not serve students’ best interests. 

“I do not think it is a fair solution, but at the same time, I do not know what the alternative is,” said Sinareet Shabsough, an applied English student at the University of Jordan. 

“I feel as if, on one hand, there is injustice with online learning, especially because of technical problems like not having access to the internet,” Shabsough explained. “But on the other hand, resorting to cheating has become a significant problem among students. Many of them will graduate without knowing anything about the last four semesters.” 

Dean of the Faculty of Mass Communication at the University of Petra, Mohammad Najeeb Sarayra, said that the pass/fail grading system originated as a temporary solution while online learning was new and challenging for students. But over a year after the first closure of schools, he argued that the system is no longer helpful. 

“At the beginning of this pandemic, the pass/fail grading system was acceptable, but now I do not think it is anymore,” he said in an interview with Jordan News. “Practically, the grading system is affecting the students negatively. If a student uses (pass/fail), it can show weakness in his academic performance and harm him if he wanted to continue studying for his master’s degree.”

Likewise, assistant professor for the Department of Interior Design at the Middle Eastern University, Samah Aldweik, said that she thinks applying the pass/fail system makes students careless. 

“I’m against applying the system,” she said. “There are some students who are trying hard to put in the effort needed for the courses while others do not care about the outcome, as long as they have the pass/fail grading system to depend on. To make both groups of students equal is not fair.”

Similarly, Fakher Daas, the general coordinator of a student advocate moment called “Thabahtona,” said that he opposed implementing the pass/fail system. 
“The pass/fail system came as an exceptional solution during a time that we were not prepared for,” he said. “We were not prepared for the idea of online learning, so it was acceptable in that time to use the system.”

“But now we are talking about four semesters. Some students passed over 70 (course) hours. They could have used the system for all the courses and this puts a big question mark on the reliability of the certificate they will get,” he said. “This negatively affects the reputations of the universities and the students’ best interest.”

Member of Parliament Bilal Momani said that now that the world has adapted to COVID-19, the pass/fail grading system should be applied sparingly, not to courses such as those in the medical field.

“I’m against (pass/fail grading). Now I think that the exams should be held in universities at the campus,” Momani said. “I care about social distancing and following the rules, but I think it is time,” the deputy said, stressing that high-quality Jordanian education should be maintained. “We want our students to be the best and we want them to stay that way.”

“The conditions of the pandemic in the first months differ from its conditions currently. Now that we know how to deal with it, we expect that in the upcoming period we will be able to contain the spread of the virus in Jordan, so we can return to our normal life,” he said. 

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