A very nice article against the philosophy of the bell curve, which is a prominent feature of examinations all over the world, including Singapore. I am sure that when Gauss invented the bell curve, he didn’t intend it to be used for examinations!
The goal is to fight grade inflation, but the forced curve suffers from two serious flaws. One: It arbitrarily limits the number of students who can excel. If your forced curve allows for only seven A’s, but 10 students have mastered the material, three of them will be unfairly punished. (I’ve found a huge variation in overall performance among the classes I teach.)
The more important argument against grade curves is that they create an atmosphere that’s toxic by pitting students against one another. At best, it creates a hypercompetitive culture, and at worst, it sends students the message that the world is a zero-sum game: Your success means my failure.
Exhibit B: I spent a decade studying the careers of “takers,” who aim to come out ahead, and “givers,” who enjoy helping others. In the short run, across jobs in engineering, medicine and sales, the takers were more successful. But as months turned into years, the givers consistently achieved better results.
The results: Their average scores were 2 percent higher than the previous year’s, and not because of the bonus points. We’ve long knownthat one of the best ways to learn something is to teach it. In fact, evidence suggests that this is one of the reasons that firstborns tend to slightly outperform younger siblings on grades and intelligence tests: Firstborns benefit from educating their younger siblings. The psychologists Robert Zajonc and Patricia Mullally noted in a review of the evidence that “the teacher gains more than the learner in the process of teaching.”