RU Abroad with Justin: From Tilly with Love

I miss you so much Ryerson. At first, I was all for it, exploring a different university system, but now I’m starting to see the cracks in the facade and it’s really making realize how awesome and understanding you really are, Ryerson. It could just be my personal experience, but there’s something missing here at Tilburg University.

First off, let me point out that for a Dutch student, university is pretty cheap. Tuition for an entire bachelor’s program costs about the same as a year and a half at a Canadian university. That means that if a single class in Canada costs $500, the Dutch pay just under $190 for that same course. In addition to this are two other key factors: 1) most professors provide all required reading online and free of charge. That’s right. Very little textbook cost. 2) Most students live with their parents and commute for (you guessed it) free. If you’re a Dutch student, you can sign up for the national train service and receive free transportation on all weekdays (weekends you have to pay), which makes it even easier to commute. That, and the fact that it takes a maximum of two hours to get across the entire country by train.

Now with all those factors thrown together, it would follow that it’s very culturally and financially acceptable for a Dutch student to fail a course. As far as I’ve seen, this affects the school in a few ways.

  1. Dutch students don’t see an issue with talking over a lecturer for an entire class. I’m not kidding. They show up to class to be social rather than to learn. To me it seems oddly disrespectful to both other students in the class and the professor trying in vain to teach. Picture a kindergarten teacher who’s been told to keep 50 toddlers silent for an hour after they’ve been pumped full of sugar. It’s just chaos. Pointless chaos.
  2. Professors don’t care. They just don’t. They can do whatever they want without an explanation, and probably try to fail kids because it’s not a big deal. If the students aren’t responsible, then neither are the professors. There’s no commitment or trust.

And then there’s this, which is really what frustrates me. So much in fact that I’ve started a new paragraph. You know how the SAT’s deduct marks for every wrong answer? Well, Tilburg employs a weirdly similar system that is currently driving me nuts. They call it the “gambling correction”. Essentially what it means is that if you were to get 100% on that multiple choice exam they could deduct up to 25% based simply on the fact that each question has a 25% chance of being correct. Think about that for a minute, and then tell me I’m allowed to get angry. WHY!? Why?! I’m not a professor but here’s what I think.

First off, this system undermines the entire point of a multiple choice exam. Multiple choice exams are given on the principle that educated guesses are just as good as knowing the answer. What this allows professors to do is ask questions that haven’t been presented to a class before to see if the knowledge in the subject can lead a student to get to the correct answer without always requiring memorization of a random fact. I mean don’t get me wrong, multiple choice exams can still be a bunch of memorization, but they have the potential for more.

Secondly, if you wanted to test a student without allowing for the opportunity to guess, why wouldn’t you have a written exam, rather than multiple choice?! Written exams completely eliminate the possibility of guessing. From what I can tell, the only reason professors don’t want to give a written exam is because they don’t want to mark them all. Can’t really blame them, but at the same time this issue has arisen out of a lack of commitment (in both directions) between professors and students, and it’s extremely frustrating.

Forgive me, but I have lost faith in Tilburg University’s teaching methods. In it’s defence, there are a million associations. For everything. Everywhere. Traveling, volunteering, theatre, chess, debating, model UN, exchange students, etc… The extracurricular possibilities are endless if you’re willing to put up with classes in the first place.

I miss you, Ryerson.