Social media in debate over announcing student grades

By Zhu Bochen
0 Comment(s)Print E-mail, December 6, 2020
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First graders in a classroom at Dongshengshiyan Primary School in Haidian district, Beijing, capital of China, Aug. 29, 2020. [Photo/Xinhua]

Student rights to privacy and development has become the subject of heated debate recently on China's popular microblogging platform Sina Weibo, as netizens hold different opinions on whether schools should post students' grades publicly.

The debate centers on the very nature of test scores and how they are perceived by students, and their learning environment. Those in favor of public grading believe this could make students well-informed of everyone's academic performance and effectively encourage them to compete. Opponents are concerned that such public announcement constitutes a violation of privacy and is likely to cause other forms of bullying, especially for students falling behind.

"When I was in school, I was indeed terrified every time when hearing teachers announcing our test scores in front of everyone," one contributor to the Weibo topic commented. "I was frustrated when I didn't do well in exams, and it felt like everyone was mocking me for that, so much so that some teachers would even just ignore me."

Such frustration is also shared by many Chinese parents due to a psychological phenomenon of rivalry based on their children's academic performance, which, in this case, is mainly measured by test scores when publicly posted.

"With the evolving of exam-oriented education, test scores are no longer the lifeblood of students, but have become the source of pride for parents, the standard for them to evaluate their children, and the catalyst for parents to either blame or appreciate teachers" was one comment in a similar discussion on Zhihu, a Quora-like Q&A platform in China.

"The insecurity from parents' side will explode if not knowing their children's test scores," it added.

Given this, some parents believe publicly posting students' grades does more good than harm, especially for students from fourth to sixth grade whose final test scores directly affect the enrollment result of those choosing private middle schools. Thus, they call for public grading as early as possible.

Some also agree that publicly posting students' grades can help build their children's self-esteem. "We agree that primary schools shouldn't make test scores publicly, but when it comes to middle schools, it's not that bad for students to experience and get used to the cruelty of competition," was another response on Zhihu. "Appropriate setback education is a must-have for every child," it said.

However, those opposed believe that the right to decide whether or not to post grades publicly should belong to students and their parents, rather than the schools and teachers.

Back in December 2017, the Ministry of Education published a document setting management standards for the country's nine-year free compulsory education system. Article 58 of the document limits the number of tests allowed and prohibits the public posting of grades.

Many Zhihu users believe this document set strict boundaries and make students' test scores a matter of personal privacy.

Since it is agreed that such public announcement is intended to encourage students to do better next time, some are instead concentrating on if there are other ways to achieve the same goal with less negative psychological effect on students.

In response, one respondent suggested obscuring all the names on the publicly posted grade list, meanwhile telling each student privately their own test scores to allow them to see where they stand on the list. The proposal is seen as addressing privacy issues while encouraging students to work harder.

"I think the test scores should be posted publicly, but I also think students' personal privacy should be protected," said the one who put forward the proposal on Zhihu.

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