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Shanghai teachers to give letter grades

By Zhou Wenting | China Daily | Updated: 2016-08-30 08:07

Education commission overhauls the way performance is evaluated

Shanghai is overhauling how primary schools measure student performance after a pilot program showed the move could encourage a greater interest in education.

From this academic year, starting Sept 1, the written midterm and final exams that Chinese schools have relied on for decades will be scrapped, and instead parents will receive report cards on which their child is graded in each subject from A to D.

The grade will reflect not only students' performance on regular tests, but also their interest in a subject, their general behavior-such as the attention they pay to study and assignments-how tidy they keep their textbooks and how many books they read in their spare time, according to the city's education commission.

The changes came after a three-year pilot involving first-and second-graders, which the authorities said resulted in students becoming proactive in their studies.

"Chinese students are used to taking written tests in which the highest mark is 100. But such a method has its limitations, as it only shows the result, not the process," said Zhu Lei of the commission's primary education department. "Sometimes, students are discouraged when they fail to get full marks because they lose just one or two points.

"With the new system, students who don't do well in a quiz can still get an A if they prove that they have understood a subject and show a good attitude toward learning."

There is no set number of how many students can get an A grade. "The whole class can get As if all the students achieve the curriculum standard," Zhu said.

However, some teachers argue that the new system may not clearly demonstrate to a child or their parents how well they are performing academically.

"Marks are more straight-forward than grades. A student getting 50 points and another getting 10 points could both get a D, so parents may not get a clear picture of how much the child could improve," said Cao Lin, a Chinese-language teacher at Tairi School in Fengxian district. She said the new system will reduce the pressure placed on students, but it is unlikely to stop parents from signing their children up for supplementary lessons.

"At the end of the day, students face fierce competition to secure spots in elite high schools and universities," Cao said. "Parents won't want to see their child lag behind, even when they are just starting elementary school."

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