29 July 2014

NUS, SAF Making Life Easier

It beginning to seem that some organisations are changing standards to make people happy.

Grade-Free First Semester
Two months ago, National University of Singapore ("NUS") announced that it will implement a grade-free first semester for first-year undergraduates who are on the modular system. Students will be graded and they can either keep the grade and have it counted toward their Cumulative Average Point ("CAP") or choose a satisfactory / unsatisfactory grade and not have it counted toward their CAP.

NUS says that the objective is to enhance the quality of an NUS education.

Everyone knows, of course, what will happen — students will opt to keep good grades and discard all other grades.

More Students To Be Admitted Into Honours Year
NUS will increase the proportion of students graduating with honours.

This will be achieved by reducing the minimum CAP for a third-year student to proceed to the honours programme from 3.5 to 3.2.
As a result, the number of honours programme students in the affected faculties will increase from approximately 60 per cent to between 70 per cent and 75 per cent.

NUS says that it increasing the number of students in its honours programmes because (i) the quality of its undergraduate intake has continued to increase significantly over the years, and (ii) the added value of the honours programmes will help prepare graduates for a rapidly changing work environment.

Only higher performing students are allowed to do the honours programme. 
Honours Degree Classification
NUS will change its honours degree classification.

Current ClassificationRevised Classification
First class honoursHonours (highest distinction)
Second class (upper) honoursHonours (distinction)
Second class (lower) honoursHonours (merit)
Third class honoursHonours

NUS says that the revised classification will more accurately reflect the academic accomplishments of its graduates. Not unexpectedly, NUS points out that major US universities use a similar classification.
The revised classification achieves nothing, apart from obfuscating the different classifications of honours degrees. It appears to be an attempt to whitewash to fact that the lowest honours degree is a third class honours; with the revision, a third class honours is simply an honours degree.
How exactly will the revised classification will more accurately reflect the academic accomplishments of the honours graduates?

The current classification is unambiguous, is widely accepted and has stood the test of time.
Individual Physical Proficiency Test
The Singapore Armed Forces ("SAF") will change the format of the Individual Physical Proficiency Test ("IPPT").

Instead of being tested at five stations (pull-ups, sit-ups, standing broad jump, shuttle run and 2.4 km run), full-time servicemen and reservists will be tested at three stations (push-ups, sit-ups and 2.4 km run).

The SAF says that the revaised IPPT will make fitness less of a burden and more of a lifestyle. Instead of IPPT imposing on the lives of NSmen, it will encourage them to make physical fitness and physical training part of their lifestyles. The new format makes it simpler for NSmen to train in their own time without the need for specialised equipment.

The SAF maintains that its combat readiness will not be affected, because it is being tested in other ways. For good measure, the SAF says that many other military establishments use 3-station tests to keep their forces fit.

But what does the result expected by the SAF — that the revised format will enable more NSmen will pass — say about the revised format?

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