Grade Inflation in Language and Translation Courses at Saudi Schools and Universities
This study investigates the status of grade inflation in language and translation courses in Saudi Arabia. Analysis of the pass rates and percentages of students who obtained Grades A+, A, B+ and B in 70 English language skills and translation college courses, in addition to the English course scores of students in grades 1 to 11 at a private school, showed evidence of grade inflation at the school and college levels as revealed by the high pass rates and high percentages of students obtaining Grades A+, A, B+ and B in most courses. Responses to a questionnaire-survey by a sample of schoolteachers and language and translation college instructors showed several factors contributing to grade inflation such as: school and university administrators’ tendency to raise students’ marks and course grades and exercising pressure over instructors to pass the students. There are misconceptions about educational quality. Administrators correlate high quality with high pass rates, regardless of the learning outcomes. Instructors worry about students and parents’ complaints if some students fail. They worry about being investigated and about losing their job. Instructors would like to be liked by the students, be popular and get good ratings on the students’ course evaluation forms. Instructors give easy questions and are lenient in grading. Exam results do not reflect individual differences and distinctions. The grading system produces a high pass rate as 60% of the course marks are allocated to attendance, assignments, quizzes, and class work. Exams focus on a small portion of the course/textbook material. Many course topics are not covered by the tests. Tests contain few easy questions that measure rote memorization and recall rather than higher-level thinking skills. Prior to exams, students enrolled in General English courses are given practice tests with similar questions to the final exam (in form and content). Hence, students know what to expect on the final exam. The study gives some recommendations for combating grade inflation at Saudi schools and universities.