Getting back from my south island trip, I really had to hit the ground running when it comes to school work. The day we got back I had a lab report due, and the Thursday I got back we had a test for advanced genetics which is hands down my hardest class.
When it comes to education in New Zealand I’ve already mentioned a little bit in past posts about how the system differs a bit from my school back in the states. I talked about how being able to watch your class online can be a double-edged sword, and about how being in a school with a much larger population can both limit the amount of personal time with professors and cause you to have to become a lot more independent with knowing what to do. Besides that, there are quite a few other differences. The main ones are:
- Lack of assignments: back at home there are lots of assignments for all my class given throughout my semester. Worksheets, problems, readings with accompanies worksheets, group projects, essays, online modules, etc… My classes here have not had nearly as many assignments compared to back home. I think I had a good month before I had to turn anything in at the beginning. This may sound pretty great but this brings me to my next point…
- Weight of tests and reports: though there are much fewer assignments the weight of these assignments are a lot different. Back home our final exams were mostly worth 30% of our grade, sometimes a little more sometimes a little less. Sometimes final exams were worth just as much as our midterms, or they were just a bunch of little tests that were evenly weighted throughout the semester. Here most of my exams are worth 40-50% of my grade (most are 50%). This makes final exams a huge deal here. They can pretty much make or break your grade. I am very thankful that at least here they give us an entire week free of classes to study where back at home we just get a long weekend to study for all of our final exams.
- Grading scale: The grading scale here actually shocked me because I had no idea what it was like before I came here. Honestly, I the thought that the grading scale might be different had never really passed my mind. It’s actually quite different from back home. Heres a side by side comparison of the grading scales. Keeping in mind that U.S. grading scales vary from class to class while the scale at Waikato stays the same throughout the entire school system but this is roughly what most classes go by:
Grade UH Hilo Waikato A 90-100 80-100 B 80-89 65-79 C 70-79 50-64 D 60-69 40-49 E/F <60 0-39
As you can see you can get 50% or more and still get a passing grade (C) in the course. I believe as a result of this, achieving higher grades like A’s require more work in my classes because the tests so far have been a bit harder.
- Testing timetable: the only thing that I find a bit difficult as an exchange student is that the timetables for our classes are not released till past mid-semester. Back at home, we know when our final exams are going to be the first day of school so I know what date I am finished with school. There are now five weeks left in school and the final exams are just being posted next week so it makes planning trips at the end of the semester a bit difficult.
When I look at both systems there are definitely pro’s and cons to each one. In my personal opinion, I don’t really think one is better than the other from my experience, but one thing I really do personally envy about the system in New Zealand is that people move forward at a much faster pace than back home. I have people my age and younger who are already in their Ph.D. programs and I don’t think it’s uncommon. most people finish their masters in less than two years and will finish their Ph.D.’s in maybe three where in the U.S. it typically takes people in my field anywhere from 5-7 years to finish their Ph.D. Education for the masses is such a difficult thing to master or perfect. Not one method of learning will work for everyone and there are thousands of factors to take into account when building an education system. I don’t think there is such a thing as a perfect education system (though I would love for someone to prove me wrong). In the end, I feel the best thing we can do is try our best with what we have, see what works, and then keep refining things to make them as best as possible.