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NTU introduces changes to grading system

Two new residential halls also built to kick off the new academic year.

SINGAPORE: Nanyang Technological University (NTU) kicked off the new academic year on Wednesday (Aug 6) with the opening of two new residential halls and the introduction of changes to its grading system for students.

Starting from Academic Year 2014, freshmen can automatically exclude up to six courses for Grade Point Average (GPA) computation, if they do not attain a pass for their first attempt in their first year. They will retake the exams for those exempted courses and the grade for the second attempt will then be used to compute the student’s GPA. These changes were made to ease the freshmen’s transition into university.

"This is actually very much in line with our thinking about giving second chances to students because what we do notice is that there are some students who are perhaps not so strong (in certain subjects), said Professor Kam Chan Hin, Senior Associate Provost for Undergraduate Education at NTU.  

"In the transition year, some of them do get into a bit of difficulty. (We want to) automatically actually exclude six of the courses where they couldn't clear at their first try so that they get a second chance and to make sure that this does not negatively impact on their GPA."

Under the previous grading system, if a student gets an 'F' for a core module, he gets no points and will need to take the same course again. If he gets an 'A' on his second attempt, he gets 5 points. The average of the two grades - in this case, 2.5 points - will be used to calculate his GPA.

But under the new grading system, if he fails a core module, this grade will automatically be excluded. The grade he gets on his second attempt will be used to compute his GPA. 

Mr Mohamed Sulfadli Mohamed Zainal, a freshman in the School of Materials Science and Engineering at Nanyang Technological University, said: "This is a very good option, especially for us returning NS men. Of course, for two years we have not been studying, so we want to gain back the momentum, especially for the first semester. It is very crucial for university students. We don't want anything to affect our GPA."

The university has also adjusted the way it awards the passing grade for the existing Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory (S/U) option for all undergraduate general electives starting this coming academic year. Students who obtain a pass - grade ‘D’ or above - will now be given the satisfactory grade, as compared to the current ‘C’ grade and above. This fine tuning is to encourage students to be more adventurous in their choice of broadening courses.

Ms Charmaine Choo Xinyi, a second-year student at the Wee Kim Wee School of Communication and Information at NTU, said: "So let's say I am interested in a particular module but then I am worried that I won't be able to do well - because of that fear, I choose to not take that module, I think it is a waste. But because of this change, there is more leeway for me."

A total of five new General Core Courses (GER-Core) will also be introduced for the new cohort of freshmen, which consists of single-AU (Academic Unit) courses in key subject areas. These are: Sustainability, Enterprise & Innovation, Ethics and Moral Reasoning, Absolute Basics for Career, Career Power Up. Content and course assessment for these courses will be delivered entirely online and will be on Pass/Fail basis.

To integrate learning beyond the formal curriculum, NTU has also piloted new pedagogical models within the two new residential halls, named the Pioneer and Crescent Halls. The halls, which can accommodate up to 1,250 students, will be a vital test-bed for innovative green technologies like solar panelling and include environmentally-friendly features like a rain garden.

Plans to build three more residential halls are also in place and is set to be completed by 2016.

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