In a new proposal, the Danish government wants to make an add-on to the existing 7-point grading scale. They want it to go up to 12+. And they want to curb the grade-race and perfectionist culture by changing the description of the individual grades to focus more on the student’s capabilities and less on mistakes and flaws in their performance.
The new 12+ will still count as a 12, but will stand out on the final diploma with an explanatory statement from the examiner about why the grade 12+ has been given.
“We need a culture at our educational institutions that motivates and encourages the students to perform, take chances and challenge themselves throughout their education. The grading scale and the way we use the grades should support this. And this is why we want to change the grading scale to focus less on what’s missing, by introducing the 12+,” says the Minister of Higher Education and Science, Tommy Ahlers in a press release from the ministry and continues:
“In that way, you get a reward for doing something out of the ordinary, and not just for being perfect. This should help curb the perfectionist culture and promote the idea that Denmark educates skilled, independent and brave students.”
When it was announced in January 2019 that the grading system was up for discussion, yet again, Mikkel Nielsen, the President of CBS Students, said that he wanted a grading system that didn’t focus on the mistakes and flaws in a student’s performance.
“The proposal looks promising, as it reflects that the politicians have listened to what students and experts have said and wished for. It’s indeed very positive that they’re going to change the description of the grades to focus less on mistakes, and instead focus on the positive things in the performance. This is exactly what we’ve been asking for, to curb the perfectionist culture,” Mikkel Nielsen says and argues that a change in the description isn’t enough. It’s a whole culture that needs to change.
“Changing the description of individual grades isn’t going to change the grade-race culture, but it’s a step in the right direction for sure,” he says.
Wilbert van der Meer, the Head of the Dean’s Office at CBS, thinks the new grading system looks promising, as it deals with some of the issues of the current one.
“It’s good that the suggestion actually focuses on solving some of the day-to-day problems that the current grading system is causing. For example, the lack of away to acknowledge the extraordinary performance or the need for positive descriptions of the grades,” he says.
However, he reiterates that changing a grading system is no walk in the park and needs to be taught thoroughly.
“We still have students and lecturers that compare the 7-grade point scale to previous grading scales. So you have to be absolutely sure that the new grading scale can last at least 10 to 20 years before you change it again, as both students and teachers will have to get used to it,” he says.
Changing 7 to a 6 and an 8
The changes to the grading system are based on an evaluation that highlighted large gaps between grades 4,7 and 10, the lack of opportunities to reward extraordinary performance, and the inflation of high grades. These are all factors that contribute to making the system insufficient.
Therefore, the government is appointing an expert panel to look into the possibilities of making the gaps between the grades smaller. At the moment, the possibility of changing the current 7 to a 6 and 8 is currently being investigated.
“On one hand, it’s positive that an expert panel is looking into how to change 7 to a 6 and an 8. On the other hand, I don’t know how many expert panels you need to see that it’s a problem. When you have the large gaps, you risk your grade point average being greatly affected whether you get a 4 or a 7,” says Mikkel Nielsen.
Wilbert van der Meer points out that, for a long time, teachers have found it difficult to use the grading scale due to the large gaps between the grades 4 and 7 and 7 and 10. Therefore, he’s happy to see that an expert panel will look into how the grading scale can be changed.
“The study made by EVA showed that the current grading scale is hard to understand and use because you have the uneven jumps between the grades. If you ask people what grade they would give on a scale from 1 to 10, it’s easy to understand. But this scale isn’t intuitive. What is -3? And it’s hard to explain whether a 4 is good or bad. So it’s harder to use,” he says.
According to the press release, the Ministry for Higher Education and Science also wants to look into initiatives that can support more transparency into the grades that are given and best practice for grade giving at educational institutions.
The government will make the final adjustments based on the expert panel’s suggestions regarding new grade descriptions and changes to the grading scale.