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“Credit washing”, is it acceptable?Dongguk University and students need to find a middle ground about "credit washing"
  • Sung Min-kyung, Kim Jong-ha
  • 승인 2011.06.06 17:11
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Seeing students run to class every morning to avoid being late is a common sight on many university campuses. The main reason for this happening is because student scores are directly related with attendance points.  If students are on time, they have the best chance to get good grades in their classes which may very well equal good jobs in the future. The demand to get good grades has led to a phenomenon called 'credit washing, where students who did not get good scores in particular lectures will take the class again or abandon those credits.  This has led to some problems.

 

Seven out of ten students are positive towards using credit washing and abandoning low scores.  Online job-search, saram-in conducted a survey of 672 university students about the issue.  The reason why students agree with the “credit washing” system is that “by abandoning credits, they can get good grades.”(41.5%) Secondly, “abandoning credits is one of the rights of students. (22%)  Thirdly, they do not have to retake the classes. (3.8%)  But there are also opposite opinions.  First, credit washing is a “cause of grade inflation.”(26.2%) Because many students retake classes the scores are generally higher which hurts first time students’ chances to achieve good scores. In fact, of the respondents who replied, 33.9 percent said that this system is unfortunately necessary to get good scores.  Moreover 28.6 percent of students said that they utilize the system to procrastinate their graduation by abandoning credits

The Ministry of Education, Science and Technology(MEST) and Korean Council for University Education(KCUE) posted '2010 students' grade assessment on both subject and graduates’ average scores' of 194 universities from the whole country in University's teller last month.  According to this, 90.3 percent of graduates received average scores higher than B grades. This data shows that grade inflation is occurring and if you look deep enough, it shows that the main reason for grade inflation is 'credit washing'.  Universities even have systems in place that allow this to occur. Dongguk University is enforcing two systems. What are the problems and solutions of 'credit washing'?
When students receive grades lower than the ones they originally wanted they may use credit washing to try and get a higher scores by retaking the course or abandoning that credit altogether. It is widely used by lots of students. Park Sung-yeun, from the Department of education, said. "I should be allowed to take all the time I need to get good grades and if need be, to retake courses. Most students do this, so why shouldn’t I? I need to get good credits to find a good job. This is life." Most students have similar thoughts. All universities prepare various measures that allow for credit washing.

Dongguk University permits systems to ’retake courses' and 'abandon credits' with limited restrictions. One restriction is that students can only a retake a course if they acquire below a C+ grade. With this system in place it opens to students to wash credits freely. The data from the '2010 students' grade assessment on subject and graduates’ average grades' shows that DU's graduates’ average grades recorded an extremely high rank among the 194 universities.

However, in the case of Sungkyunkwan University things are different. They have created a system which strongly prevents 'credit washing'. Sungkyunkwan University limits the number of classes where this can be done. Students can only retake two or three classes. In 2005, Sungkyunkwan University had completely abolished credit washing but they recently started again under the modified rules because of repeated calls from students. Their Educational Affairs Department said "We continue to make a great effort to eliminate 'credit washing' through consultation between us and the students."

Yonsei University has a system very similar to Dongguk in that they abolished the limit of the number of times students can re-take courses.  It is not clear how Yonsei has dealt with the problem of grade inflation as they have decided to change their evaluation method from absolute to relative evaluations in several classes.  A member of Yonsei University said “Naturally, absolute evaluations were used as a way to get students to take English major classes but the system was used as a method to get good grades in classes which students did not get good grades in the past. Yonsei University opted to change its educational system for educational purposes.  The Yonsei University council, however, revolted against the decision made by the university.  A Yonsei University council member said “This system will give students a disadvantage in getting jobs”  

Korea University has a system that is stricter than Yonsei University.  Korea University has placed a limit on the number of credits which students can give up and credits which students can retake to 6 credits per semester.  Kim Gye-sook who works in the Record Register office of Korea University said “For now, we have not prepared measures to prevent ill-judged retaking of courses.  However, we will consider this when we change our academic system.  There are several things that have to be considered when we review the data and the students’ opinions. We will not consider what other universities are doing. 

Other universities also carry out a credit abandonment system; Ewha, Dankook, and Sookmyung to name a few.  Simple arithmetic indicates that the system brings in more money to universities. This can cost families a lot of money as they pay for their children to take the same classes again.  The Parents’ Solidarity for Human Education said it is “Too bad that universities view themselves as just grade plants for getting jobs.  Universities need to rediscover the purity of education and consider countermeasures to cut students from abandoning credits.”
 The College of Engineering of Seoul National University prepared countermeasures to forbid credit washing.  The Dean of the College of Engineering reported to the university president that students of their college could not retake more than 3 to 6 credits.  Kan Tae-jin, the Dean said “Due to grade inflation, businesses do not trust the transcripts from universities.  Moreover, students are just taking the easy way out thinking ‘We can get good grades after retaking in the future even if we don’t try right now.’  Therefore, the academic system will have lost its credibility.” 

The big problems at Dongguk stem from the following. First, as the older students retake classes, the younger students cannot register for those classes even though they’re supposed to take them in the earlier semesters in order to prepare them for future classes.  There becomes a logjam and a deeper waiting list. When the upper grades and the lower grades do end up mixing and take their classes together the relatively younger students are more likely to get bad grades because the older students have already learned some of the material before, either in the same class, or in related classes so it is easier for them to get good grades.  This coupled with the fact that the older students, in general, have had a few more years to mature and work harder than their freshmen counterparts often leaves the younger students at the bottom of the grading list. The cycle continues. The freshmen students end up retaking the same classes as well.  It is a vicious cycle.  Kim Young-hun, in Academic Affairs said “We can speak no ill will of students using the current academic system to credit wash.  This is the system that is in place, even though it is open to dispute.  Two years from now Dongguk University will reform their academic system and the way it handles retaking and credit abandonment.” 

The Post interviewed Professor Park Sun-hyon of the Department of Education to hear his views about credit washing.  Professor Park said “I want to say there are two streams of thought, one group is in favor of credit washing, and the other is against it.  First, those for credit washing say the university should not forbid students to retake classes and limit credit abandonment.  If the students want to spend more time and pay more money to get better grades then they should be able to do so because they paid their tuition.  They should be able to take as many classes as they want to.  In a capitalist society, why should a university prohibit students from building their careers?  It doesn’t make sense.” He added that “However; the other side of the coin argues that is unfair to retake classes because the system is unfair to the younger students.  There are two sides to every debate, sometimes more.”

Often times the retaking system gives students the leeway to achieve lower grades with little effort and no penalties. Of course, they take for granted that they are lucky their parents are even paying their tuition. Is this really the bar that Dongguk wants to set for their standard of education? A little work and a lot of money will get you a degree if you stick around long enough.  Clearly, Dongguk University should not want its students to use the system this way, but they are doing little to nothing about it.  Would not the ideal way to solve this problem be for the university to remove the restrictions and let everyone credit wash regardless of grade limits and retake as many classes as they choose?  Practically, the university and students need to find a middle ground like they have in Sungkyunkwan.  The university has to gather the opinions of their students and the students have to actively express their opinions. 
Despite its flaws, most people agree with the current academic system.  Moon Ji-hyon, who majors in the Department of Education said, “When I took classes just a year or two ago, there were many older 3rd and 4th year students also taking them.  The older students consisted of fifty percent of the class.  Because I was just a freshman, I was not that good in class and everything was unfamiliar to me, not to mention my work ethic, which took a big hit after graduating high school and my new found freedom.  I felt, for me, to get good scores in this class was going to be very difficult because the competition would be too high.  My competition was working harder than me. They were coming to more classes and they even seemed to know more than me. The playing field was not fair and I knew I was going to get shafted come grading time.  And shafted I got.  It was like the older kids in class were holding that carrot, just out in front of me, egging me on to take it, but always dangling it just out of my grasp. Those good scores were always impossible to get. It all seemed unfair, but now my view is changing.”
“Now that I am a sophomore, I now think that retaking classes is not all that bad. Sure, I may sound like a hypocrite, but I think that students should be given a second chance to be redeemed for their mistakes.  Students invest a lot of effort, time and money to raise their grade point averages.  I do not think that a university should make regulations to forbid students from retaking classes and if they really want to credit wash, they should let them.  Some revisions might be okay like they have done at Sungkyunkwan University and Korea University, and that sounds about right.” 

 

Sung Min-kyung, Kim Jong-ha  tjd4319@dongguk.edu, keep14@dongguk.edu

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