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QSI International School's Grading System: Thoughts from a Former Attendee
Moving To Shenzhen
Moving to China in my teens was a little weird at first, but I had lived overseas before and adjusted fairly well. My first year there I attended a Canadian international school which was interesting. The curriculum was a bit tougher than I what I had experienced in the U.S. but it was pretty typical.
The following year, for my junior year, I switched schools and started attending QSI International in Shekou. It was much closer to home, so I wouldn't have to take a bus anymore. I remember the placement exam being really easy. The majority of their students (at that time) were not native English speakers so maybe that was the reason it seemed simple.
The No-Fail Grading System
When my 17-year-old self got wind of the type of grading at QSI, I got really excited. QSI does not let students fail. (At least back in 2004 when I was a student.) Each course was divided into 10 units, and each unit had a test. If the student did not make at lease an 80% B on the test, they were not to move onto the next unit the minimum grade was reached.
At first it sounds like a fine system, but in practice, it really fell apart. I quickly figured out that I could scam my way through Algebra II and come out with a B! I got A's in all of my other classes because compared to the kids who struggled with English, my work was pretty good.
My Algebra II class was small- there were only six or seven students. Our teacher was a really funny, older Australian guy. We loved to get him off-topic each day by feigning interest in volleyball (he coached our volleyball team) or by asking him about stories from the outback.
I would usually get a C on unit tests and have to re-take them to get that 80 I needed. Because the teachers had to pass all the students, it was not really feasible to hold one back and give that student personalized attention (especially since there was no time with volleyball practice!) My teacher would just have re-take the same test, usually not more than three times, and if I still could not get an 80, he'd give me some sort of extra credit. That way we could all move on!
In Lieu of Algebra...
So, obviously, I didn't learn much in my Algebra II class. What motivation did I have? I couldn't fail no matter what I did and a B was hardly a hit to my GPA.
Instead of learning algebra, I spent time writing notes to boys and learning swear words in as many languages as possible. It was still an education, just not the one intended by the school.
Though it seemed great at the time, this system of grading is horrible. It put me way behind where I should've been in math by the time I got to college. I was so overwhelmed my math in college that I decided not to pursue biology because of the math courses involved. I went, instead, with history. While I love history and really enjoyed college, I should have spent some extra time on math to get the degree I really wanted.
And I didn't even take full advantage of QSI's system. I wonder how this has affected other students and if the school has changed its policy. Now that I'm an adult, I know I would never send my child to a school that operated this way. There were many wonderful things about attending QSI, but the system that removes personal responsibility for success from teenagers is doing a disservice to the students.