Wednesday, March 10, 2010

University admission criteria needs to be clearer

MY DAUGHTER scored an A in English Literature, B in History and D in Economics for her A-level examinations for her H2 subjects, as well as an A for General Paper and an A for Project Work.

She thought she would not have problems reading English Literature or English Language in the Arts faculty at the National University of Singapore, but was denied admission.

The university attributed the rejection to comparatively stiff competition for places in the faculty this year. An executive at the faculty confirmed that to be eligible, one has to obtain a minimum of three H2 passes and one H1 pass, assuming a C grade for H1 General Paper.

She said my daughter fell below the cut-off point. Although this year's cut-off point has yet to be made public, last year's cut-off of 3H2 and 1H1 was BBC/C* (10th percentile), AAA/A (90th percentile).

Even with intense competition, my daughter's overall grade is unlikely to fall below the 10th percentile. If it does, I will graciously accept the fate that her results are just not good enough.

When I asked the university to confirm that my daughter's grades were below the cut-off point, the reply was that the ranking of results was confidential and that it was not obliged to answer my question. The university added that my daughter did not even qualify for discretionary admission.

If, with the strength as reflected in her A-level results, my daughter failed to gain entry, I am curious to know if all the students admitted thus far have a distinction in English Literature and General Paper.

Traditionally, university entrance has been based on A-level results that rank above the cut-off point. Was my daughter unfairly disadvantaged without proper reason?

Discretion may be an appropriate tool to moderate meritocracy, but when it fails to ensure absolute fairness, it may be time to reset the discretion's perimeter of effectiveness.

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