Friday, February 20, 2009

Romania Re-examined

A characteristic of the Romanian system of higher education is that students who have failed, or failed to take, their final examination in any course have the right to pay a special fee, and "re-take" it. This week is the time when those re-exams are being given for the undergraduate fall term courses at the Faculty of Economics.

Prodeacon Luţaş has explained that the rules, as written, state that only the value of the final examination in the course's grading scheme can be earned in this re-examination. Hence, I expect few students to come in today for my two re-examinations, for they are worth only 25% of their final marks, and few students who have failed can possibly pass simply by passing the re-examination.

I have learned, however, that in practice some, if not most, professors here weight the final examination at 70% to 100% of the student's grade. In a system where a 5 out of 10 is considered passing, this high weight enables semester-long no-shows to earn both a passing mark and full credit for the course after having "cut" 100% of both the lectures and the seminars during the term. So, arriving today at about 8:00, I entered a crowded lobby at FSEGA. Maybe there really are the reported 15,000 students enrolled at this faculty. Maybe we see half of them only during this final week of each semester.

Several pedagogical observations follow:
  • by making the final the whole grade, teachers are relieved of taking attendance,
  • of grading any student papers or written work during the term,
  • of grading a midterm exam, and
  • of keeping records of those mid-course learning activities.
  • Students, on the other hand, are relieved of doing any formal writing, and
  • are free to work full time while enrolled in University.
While I do not like the lack of written work, which I have found both challenging and quite important to both American and Romanian students, and though it is far different from what I am used to in American higher education, I am not going to be quick to judge this Romanian system. Perhaps this system is highly efficient. Perhaps the students learn more business by gaining work experience all term and then cramming for finals than they would by attending courses at the University.


Frank said...

Come on, Dr McD, tell us how you really feel... LOL.

worlddisciple said...

Mr McDougall,

I have read your blog by chance and, as a Romanian student with some experience of the American higher education system, I agree with you. Moreover, I dare to say that our educational system discourages perseverance and ambition (of those few students who come to class), and instead encourages the free rider mentality.
Allow me to give you the friendly suggestion: please keep the American grading system in your teaching activity! We have to learn that you cannot earn something without working for it first.

Best regards,
Diana Constantinescu

Duncan McDougall said...


I thank you for your frankness.

Duncan McD.