Teachers Urged Not to Pad Students’ Grades in University Selection Process

Education authorities have urged school officials not to pad students’ final grades, after announcing that those grades would be the main determinant for selection to a state university. 

Herry Suhardiyanto, the coordinator of the selection process known as the SNMPTN, said that following the government’s decision last year to do away with entrance exams from the 2013 academic year onward, prospective undergraduates would have to rely on their school-leaving grades to get them into university. 

“These grades are a reflection of each student’s abilities. If teachers manipulate them [to give students a better chance of being selected], then they are doing a disservice to their students,” Herry said. 

He added the question of using final high school grades as the main factor for determining a candidate’s entry into a state university had been hotly debated among the rectors of the various state schools. 

In the end, however, they agreed that this was the best way to proceed in the absence of the traditional entrance exams. 

Herry, who is also the rector of the Bogor Institute of Agriculture (IPB), said that because of schools’ emphasis on different subjects, there was no standardized grade by which a university applicant could be gauged against their peers. 

He pointed out that a grade of 8.0 on a 10-point scale in one school would not necessarily be a. 8.0 at another school. 

Because of this variation, the SNMPTN committee has also drawn up a performance index for schools to help standardize their grading schemes. 

“The rectors of the state universities have agreed to the creation of a national database, which will be valuable in evaluating university applicants,” Herry said. 

The university selection process this year will break with decades of tradition in which applicants were required to take an entrance exam, whose score would determine whether they were accepted. 

However, the Education Ministry announced last year that the exams would no longer be held as of the 2013 school year. 

The decision was made following criticism by parents’ groups and education activists that the exams posed an unnecessary burden on students, who also had to pass the national exams just weeks prior in order to graduate from high school. 

While officials from individual universities argued that it was the national exams that should be phased out, given the perennial problem of cheating facilitated by teachers to get their students to pass, or even that the two sets of exams should be merged, the Education Ministry eventually decided to cut the entrance exams. 

With the decision, however, fears have arisen that the lack of transparency inherent in the public school system will taint the university selection process, with teachers padding their students’ final grades to give them an unfair advantage in the selection. 

A key component of the final school grade is the student’s national exam score, which critics have argued is often artificially high because of the sheer scale of the cheating prevalent in the exams.
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