The CAP game
Disclaimer: This is a rant.
Results Day is ripping off a bandaid of emotional wounds that you've kinda left aside to fester for about a month (that's when exams ended).
Every semester it is the same fleeting sense of accomplishment at improvement, followed by a niggling but all-consuming sense of self-doubt at what could have been better. I think the CAP system (Cumulative Average Point) is not conducive for learning. ( At this point some of you are prolly saying, when was it ever really about learning?)
But here's my beef with it. The CAP is calculated in this complicated way which I didn't understand until this morning when De Yi drew it out for me. But in essence,the CAP weightage is precisely equal. In this way, the system incentivises consistent work over improving as the sems go by.**
What that means is that the system does not reward improvement, because if you get better grades, later on in your degree course, it counts for less to your score.
This is counterintuitive to learning because I figured we go to school to get better, not to start off as good/or to improve really quickly. It's a process, and sure some people will be great from the start. But such a system discourages the other bunch of people who are also good, but take a longer while to improve, learn and get used to the academic rigour. Mathematically speaking, this is a net loss of talent and potential. Jack Ma said, "I told my son: you don’t need to be in the top three in your class, being in the middle is fine, so long as your grades aren’t too bad. Only this kind of person [a middle-of-the-road student] has enough free time to learn other skills.” The truth is, 98% of the population can't do it all. But that is often confused with the idea that they're not good. Also, let's be honest, NUS is no walk in the park. It's competitive, it takes time and a lot of effort to adjust to a new style of writing essays, much less writing them well, and the bell curve doesn't help.
I also see how the system is good in a way that it disadvantages people who slack off in the first 2.5/3 years of their undergrad career, banking on pulling up their grades at the end.
So in the end, it's both good and bad. It's a "practical" metric to measure the student body. A marriage of convenience and I'd say, a lack of priority given to the actual progress of the individual. In some ways, this system is an extension of the years of schooling before university. In some ways, it is rather unforgiving of what happens when life gets in the way. There is little room to breathe, we are constantly in fear. Fear is a powerful motivator, but it is also a damaging one. The scars of which, my friends and I still feel today, and in many ways assist in perpetuating.
So how? I don't know. It's difficult to divorce oneself from a system of thinking that you've internalised for 15 years of schooling. I don't believe, that for me personally, there is a way to reconcile this deep sense of inevitable dissatisfaction, a thirst that is never quenched. And I think of all the talent and potential that has gone to waste (is going to waste) because people have been pushed onto the wrong side of fear, and I think that even if you fiercely insist on marching to your own beat, the empty noise, will cause you to lose your footing at least a little.
There is so much beyond this bubble, and the irony is that you have to be able to recognize that, to be able to reach the end of tunnel. But tell me honestly, if we can only connect the dots looking backwards, you can't demand from a bunch of teenagers/ twentysomethings, the foresight that is systemically and glaringly lacking in the only system they know. What a waste.
**Thanks Andre for pointing out the error.:)