On the day (28 Jan 2015) when two first-year students came to see me regarding their poor results for Semester 1 and expressed their intention to quit, I posted a random Tweet that was somehow “retweeted” or “shared” for more than 2000 times in less than 2 hours. Not only on Twitter, it was shared via my Facebook account as well (with almost 3000 likes and 2500 shared posts).
CGPA 3.5 does not equate genius while CGPA 2.0 does not equate idiot. They are just numbers until you prove your worth in life.
— Chuah Kee Man (@keemanxp) January 28, 2015
(CGPA = cumulative grade point average – scores given usually to rank students).
Within 24 hours, it started to go viral, and many also sent me screen captures of how the tweet was shared via Whatsapp and WeChat. Of course, the tweet received various feedback, which I warmly appreciate. Some agreed with my intended message while others objected it, thinking I am promoting a culture of “tak apalah” or “it’s okay to have poor CGPA”. So, let me try to somehow summarise what I intended to convey via the concise Tweet (limited to 140 characters). My focus is on university contexts, but it can also be applied to schools (i.e. STPM-level).
1. The Comparison of 3.5 and 2.0 Was Indeed “Exaggerated”
I used hyperboles in my statement (genius vs. idiot) mainly because that’s generally how exaggerated the society is (especially parents and peers) when it comes to judging a person based on CGPA. Those above 3.5 are often regarded as crème de la crème (best among the best) while those hovering between 2.0 to 2.4 are regarded as “hopeless” or “good luck if you can get a job” group. Those in between usually receive mixed judgements depending on how “tolerant” the judges (parents especially) are. However, it is not my intention to offend anyone. Just wanted to say that we shouldn’t judge a person’s ability based on CGPA alone. It is rather unfair, especially when there are more and more students who would commit all kinds of academic dishonesty just to get good grades (serious attention should given to this issue as well).
And to add on to the pressure, those obtaining first-class honours (3.60 – 3.75, depending on which university you are in – see? Even first-class honours is not standardised) can “escape” from paying back the PTPTN loan (if they borrow). This is perhaps the “key” lure for many students. 🙂
2. It is NOT Okay to Be Lazy
Some argued that my tweet is belittling the efforts poured in by those high achievers. Well, I didn’t say so in the tweet, and I acknowledge the fact that many of those obtaining above 3.5 have put a lot of efforts in their studies but there is no “guarantee” than they are indeed better than the rest.
It would be harsh to say those obtaining below 3.5 are lazy or lack of discipline. Some really worked hard but still couldn’t achieve good grades due to many factors. To me, they just need more time. Not everyone can master the skills taught in a course in 14 weeks. Everyone can learn, just not in the same way, or on the same day. So just because they scored below 3.5, it doesn’t mean they are lazy but they should not take it as an excuse for not working hard as well. This brings me to my point of “it’s NOT okay to be lazy” but don’t be disheartened if you have put plenty of hard work but still fall short from your target, just keep improving. Learn from your mistakes. It’s okay to fail, sometimes, but don’t be a failure. Pick up the pieces and be tough.
3. The Issue of My “Overseas” CGPA is Better Than Your “Local” One
If we were to use CGPA as the sole yardstick of one’s capability, then those studying overseas will also chant the mantra of “Hey look, my 3.0 is way better than your 3.5“. Yes, studying abroad might give you access to perhaps quality education (not all, mind you), but it would be unfair to have such misleading comparison. Graduates from local higher learning institutions can be as competitive as those from overseas. What matters most is their ability in grasping the essential skills in the area of study, and again CGPA may not be a good measurement.
There are so many other factors like medium of instruction used, the lecturer’s teaching approach, the university’s support system, etc that could affect one’s overall performance. Imagine a bright student being assessed by an unqualified lecturer (or one who doesn’t bother to teach well), he or she could be getting C+ for a course that he or she could have scored A elsewhere.
4. The Notion of Employers Want Higher CGPA
Well, not really. The employers’ top 5 concerns have no clear correlations with higher CGPA (Refer to the mean scores of Employer Rating of Skills/Qualities shared by Malaysian Qualifications Agency). The data may not be conclusive but you can still hear the same problems of students with high CGPA who failed in job application due to lack of communication skills, etc until now. Of course, there are certain professions, which are “stricter’ in terms of CGPA scores, even then there are other “tests” (e.g. probation, temporary placement, strict interviews, etc) that would be used to verify the qualifications.
All in all, aiming to achieve better CGPA is good, but it should not be used as a pressure that could cause a person to be unhappy in the learning process. Mastering the essential skills should be of utmost priority. Besides, not everyone wants to be employed after graduating anyway, some may just venture into their own business.
The point is CGPA does matter but it is not the ONLY thing that matters. Measuring one’s intelligence is so complicated and I am pretty sure CGPA cannot be used as the singular tool to do so.
I would like to end with a quote from Sir Ken Robinson, “Human communities depend upon a diversity of talent, not a singular conception of ability.”