A losing economy

This blog has written many criticism of the education system of Canada and Quebec respectively. Archives go on and probably averages around a negative comment on the subject every four months. I would like to point out a few notes on the subject.

Two different extreme fallacies have been surfacing lately and I would like to debunk them.

Falacy #1: Getting a diploma isn't worth the time considering the lack of jobs out there.

This falacy was the first one that surfaced and annoyed me because everyone who spoke it was clearly stating their unawareness of statistics Canada. Statistics Canada has released a report on employment rates for the year 2006 and it can be found here. It states an increase in employment by 55,000 and an unchanged unemployment rate of 6.1%. Anyone who has studied macroeconomics will tell you that unemployment is also broken down into different categories, whereas some can be tackled and fixed to reduce the rate, some remain. It would be interesting for those who believe the above statement to read the description of Structural unemployment on wikipedia, found here.

Falacy #2: If you don't have a diploma no one will hire you.

This one is a little harder to tackle with statistics, but easier to do so using several examples. It is also worth mentionning that several diplomas and degrees can be obtained at once which facilitates the amount of work put into obtaining each (i.e. Someone gradutating from John Abbott College with a Social Science diploma can also walk away with a diploma in Environmental Studies as well as Women Studies). A popular branch of breakfast places called Chez Cora is one that comes to mind, as well as a friend of mine's father. Each didn't graduate from university with a PhD, yet they run financially successful business'. Stanley Kubrick has also been a strong critic of the schooling system and has become a very successful filmaker.

Now that this is out of the way.

Grading systems are a losing economy. A student walks into class knowing what the potential output is and it is only a question of losing as little of it as possible. Potential output is therefore set at 100, with the lowest accepted output of 60. This leaves a 40% margin of error. Students are given a marking system early on during the semester (although this isn't the case in many high schools) weighting different assignments and exams by the total output available for each one.

Management skills are required. If an individual manages his output properly, he can easily stand to lose potential output in certain departments in order to obtain a desired result without much effort. The best example is courses concerning research projects such as QM, RM and IA. These courses have a list of over 5 different assignments to hand in each weighting from 5 marks to a total of 40. Obviously, some of these 5 can be overlooked in order to obtain desired results.

Businesses tend to operate a different way. Where quantity and prices are balanced to meet a potential output at equilibrium with its ressources. If all ressources are utilized to a maximum, then the equilibrium can be met. If not, unlike grading systems, there are systems that can help re-establish an equilibrium. An inflationary gap is out of the question in grading systems, by no means is it possible to obtain higher results then the potential output. So the only existing gap is a deflationary gap but with no correcting systems in place.

The grading system is a losing economy. The goal of many students becomes to simply lose the least amount of points as possible. It's often put in words of 'gain' ("You get 40 marks for this assignment" "You gain 5 points if you do this", etc...) but it truly isn't a 'gain'. It's like being given a high tip at the begining of the night, and as the night progresses, the tip gets smaller for every little inconvenience the client sees. The performance therefore doesn't equal the potential output. Ressources become underused. Why work hard and still lose marks? The equilibrium is more then often found by a good balance between minimum effort and acceptable grades.

A system which allows students to obtain more then 100 mark is therefore more likely to encourage good behavior. With a maximum grade of 100, and a minimum passing grade of 60 (which can be raised or be the only means of pass or fail), self-correcting systems can be placed by the student if it is possible to obtain more then the maximum possible. An inflationary gap can be possible if a student obtains more then 100 marks during a semester and has exhausted himself. This is the sort of system which brings a more positive outcome due to the concetration on getting higher marks. It also creates opportunities for needing students who have difficulties in school. It presents a certain hope that marks will be obtainable to counter lower marks obtained earlier on in the semester.


At 12/5/07 7:54 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Ours go up to eleven."

At 12/5/07 9:09 PM, Blogger Portelance said...

I've always gotten a kick out of profs who say things about how everyone starts off on a level playing field, and that we all start off at 100. After that, kids, it's all downhill.

What I find to be more arrogant, though, are comments that I have heard in the past from profs who acknowledge they don't give 90s grades, or that they are very rare. Conversely, 100% is seen to be an unattainable grade because nobody wants to admit that anyone has achieved perfection. 97% or whatever other random close-but-not-quite grade will be given before a 100%, because it assumes that nobody could ever perfectly master this material, and no student should be cocky enough to let it go to his head that he CAN master the material.


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