Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Dutch assessment turns into an assessment of the Dutch

The Dutch course is over now, and I'm please to say I passed. I'm afraid to say however that this blog post is mainly going to be a moan about the way the school grades exam results.

The UvA grades Dutch language course exam results on the following scale:

  • good
  • satisfactory
  • weak
  • very poor
This seems very strange to me. All the grades are on the bad side of good, there's no "excellent" grade achievable, the best you can achieve regardless of your performance is "good". Personally I'd rather ditch this assessment scheme and use numbers instead, at least you know where you are with numbers. These terms are so open to interpretation and cultural differences. One American peer of mine at school really found the lack of an "excellent" mark unbelievable, and I am always very disappointed to get a "satisfactory" grade. Satisfactory for me is "only just enough to pass, but a close call", but this is the second best mark you can get at UvA.

After 72 hours of Dutch practice in only 6 weeks, this scheme seems a little unfair but this scoring scheme turns out to be typically Dutch.

To be "excellent" in the Netherlands is to be "uitstekend", literally translated into "sticking out", or in other words "freakish". To be different from everyone else, surprisingly, is frowned upon here. I'm amazed by the contradiction in Dutch society which is supposedly one of the most liberal and open-minded in the world, but yet hates to see people achieving above the norm. Doing just enough to pass has become the accepted way to be in the Netherlands. And I worry for the nation I really do. Don't they realise that the rest of the world, especially the developing world, is trying very hard to be outstanding (a.k.a competitive). I can see the Netherlands slipping down a well greased slope unless they pull their socks up, try harder and forget their inhibitions about being uitstekend.