The Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management, Faculty of Arts and Letters  and Conservatory of Music yielded the highest percentage of honors per number of  graduates for A.Y. 2007-2008. In contrast, the Faculties of Engineering and Civil Law, and College of Commerce and Business Administration registered the lowest number of honors. V Graphics by CARLO PATRICIO P. FRANCO
WITH HONORS or with kindness?

The end of the school year has seen an uptick in honor graduates, but while the University overall has kept the numbers constant in the past five years, there is a trend in some colleges to hand out more and more medals in their yearly solemn investitures.

One professor thinks there has been a “grade inflation,” while others claim the quality of students has improved.

The trend is even more pronounced in the Faculty of Arts and Letters, where almost one out of five members of Batch 2008 is a cum laude. Moreover, one out of every five honor students produced by the University this school year came from Artlets.

Data from the Registrar’s Office show the University overall has maintained the proportion of honor students to total graduates at around nine percent for the past five years, meaning only one out of 10 students that graduated from UST was an honor student.

Artlets had 641 graduates last March, out of whom 114 were with honors – the most number of medals given by any college or faculty this year, according to official data, not counting the Graduate School and the Ecclesiastical Faculties. This was an increase from 75 honor students out of 568 graduates last year. In 2004, only one in 10 AB graduate had a medal.

A big chunk of this year’s honors came from the Communication Arts (CA) and Journalism programs under the Department of Media Studies. The two majors had the highest number of graduates, with 187 for CA and 110 for Journalism.

CA graduated 39 honors, including three magna cum laudes, while Journalism had 15. Legal Management produced 16 honors followed by Behavioral Science with 14, seven each from Asian Studies and Economics, and four each from Philosophy, Political Science, Sociology, and Bachelor of Arts-Bachelor of Science in Secondary Education (AB-BSE).

According to Prof. Jose Arsenio Salandanan, Department of Media Studies chair, CA requires the highest freshman admission score among all the other majors in the faculty.

“The department’s high cut-off score provides better student selectivity, which is a factor for having the highest percentage of honor graduates,” Salandanan told the Varsitarian. “(The high cut-off) is a motivation for students to level up in their studies.”

In the Institute of Tourism and Hospitality Management (ITHM), 58 out of 287 graduates were given honors, or one out of five. This was an increase from 44 honor students out of 285 graduates last year, data also showed.

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Fredeswindo Medina, institute secretary, said students had improved.

“I would say that they’re becoming more competent. Since we have already established the institute (ITHM used to be only a pogram under the College of Education-ed.), we are already creating a pool of competent instructors and professors. The instructors help a lot in imparting or sharing their knowledge to our students. Therefore, it results in a better performance from the students,” Medina explained.

Other colleges did not produce as many cum laudes.

While having one of the highest number of graduates for 2008, the Faculty of Pharmacy produced fewer honor students, at 60 out of 639 graduates. Last year, 78 out of 595 graduates had honors. In terms of proportion to total graduates, the rate went down to nine percent from 13 percent.

Engineering’s ratio slightly improved, from four per cent in 2007 to five percent this year, with 30 honors out of 594 graduates.
In contrast, Education honor graduates fell to 16 (out of 233) this year from 55 (out of 507) in 2006 and 18 (out of 261) in 2006 and 2007, respectively.

The decline can be traced to the separation of the Tourism and Hotel and Restaurant Management programs from Education and the formation of the ITHM.

Science has kept the ratio at 9 percent with a total of 40 honors out of 459 graduates.

Architecture for its part managed to hike the proportion of honor students to total graduates to 12 percent (32 out of 277) this year from eight percent (20 out of 265) last year. Commerce only had 10 honors out of 516 graduates.

On the other hand, from zero in 2007, Music awarded seven honors out of 45 graduates this year.

Nursing has been steady at 13 percent for the past four years, producing 40 honor graduates out of 469 this year, while in Rehabilitation Sciences, the ratio has gone up to eight percent from one percent in the past five years.

This year, eight out of 117 graduates from the college had honors.

Fine Arts and Design’s ratio declined to nine percent this year – with 34 students receiving honors out of 389 graduates – from 11 to 13 percent in the last four years.

Medicine and Civil Law have been stable in the past five years at around 15 percent and up to only three percent, respectively. This year, Medicine had 45 honor graduates out of 380, while Civil Law had 5 out of 147.

Grade inflation?

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Philosophy and Literature professor Florentino Hornedo attributed the continuing increase of honor students in Artlets to what he called “grade inflation,” which depends on the types of tests given by the teachers.

Hornedo said the student grading system in the University may be classified as either standardized or relative.

“Standardized grading is based on standardized exams; all students take the same exam and grades are based on the result, while relativized grading adapts grades to relative performance of each class,” he said. “To simply put it, the best student in an intelligent class may get a grade similar to the best student of a less intelligent class.”

Hornedo stressed that normally, each test measures four skills of a student: recall, comprehension, critical thinking, and application. The quality of tests given by teachers also affects the grades of the students.

“Easy tests bring higher grades. If tests are mainly recall and comprehension, grades may tend to be higher because they are easy to do,” he said.

In psychology, Hornedo explained that intelligence is primarily governed by a bell curve composed of the exceptional, high average, average, dull average, and the dull.

“This can indicate that a 1.5 grade in a duller class is not the same as the meaning of 1.5 in a potentially intelligent class, which can explain an increased number of honors but unequal levels of intelligence,” he said.

Shocked

For College of Science summa cum laude Timothy Tang Lee Say, a 2.25 mark in Biological Techniques – one of his major subjects – was unimaginable, perhaps unacceptable for someone whose academic diligence has borne a general weighted average (GWA) of 1.092, the highest among 2008 graduates.

“I was initially shocked upon learning that I got a 2.25 because I expected a 1.75 grade,” Tan Lee Say said. “I even considered talking to the professor, but since it barely affected my general (weighted) average, I just calmly accepted the grade.”

Like Tan Lee Say, Artlets magna cum laude Delfin Fabrigas, Jr., who obtained a GWA of 1.38, also had his share of “woes,” getting the same 2.25 rating – his lowest grade – in a major subject, Business Journalism.

“It (the 2.25 grade) was disappointing because I didn’t expect that I’ll get a grade that low,” Fabrigas said. “I don’t see my writing that bad and it was my first time to get a grade lower than 1.75 in all my major subjects.”

Fabrigas was one of the faculty’s 13 magna cum laudes.

“It is quite amazing as to how most Artlets students manage to consistently maintain good grades despite the faculty’s meager resources,” he said.

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“The current batch may be smarter than the previous ones, which could be the reason why they managed to be on the roster of honors even though they come in big numbers,” said Fabrigas. “But it is also safe to say that professors had been more generous in giving grades this time.”

Asst. Prof. Emerito Gonzales, coordinator for the Department of Philosophy, agreed, saying that the woes hounding the faculty can be primarily traced to the lack of adequate facilities.

“Currently, some of the students that come to Artlets are no longer that proficient, especially in the languages which should be their strength. Their attention span hardly lasts and there is a noticeable decline in reading comprehension and information retention,” he said.

But Gonzales also said that Artlets’ honor graduates could somehow be separated from the rest because “they deserve to get the rewards they worked hard for.”

“Although I have some of these negative impressions on some students in Artlets because of their attitude towards studying, I also do not want to discredit the students who are working hard to earn their just due,” he said. “Somehow, they deserve what they get despite some disturbing factors surrounding them because after all they did their part as students.”

Artlets Dean Armando de Jesus said the faculty’s quality of education has not declined.

“We have not really fallen in (accreditation) level,” De Jesus told the Varsitarian. “The accreditation elapsed so we had to reapply.”

The programs, which used to be accredited at Level I, are CA, Journalism, Political Science, Asian Studies, and Sociology.

After the accreditation lapsed, the programs obtained a candidacy status, which De Jesus said remains at Level I.

However, De Jesus admitted that one weakness of the faculty is the lack of masteral and doctoral degree holders.

“We are giving incentives to faculty members so they can go to study and be promoted,” De Jesus told the Varsitarian. “(However), 60 percent of our faculty members are practitioners (especially in Journalism, CA, and Legal Management), whom we cannot require to attend graduate schools.”

While postgraduate degrees are required for accreditation, Salandanan said that degrees won’t necessarily improve the quality of education that teachers provide.

“Having that degree is not conclusive that one can be a better teacher,” Salandanan added. Francis James B. Gatdula with reports from J.L.G. Aguilar, M.R.A. Barrios, A.P.P. Bantolo, E.K.A. dela Cruz, J.J.L.Ignacio, J.E.A. Libut, R.C.R. Loveria, A.R.I. Parel and A.A.R. Rabino

DAY OF RECKONING. Graduating students of the Faculty of Arts and Letters line up inside the Philippine International Convention Center to receive their diplomas and be formally conferred their degrees. Photo by KEVIN C. JIMENO

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