R-Score No More: The Removal of the Winter Semester for R-Score Calculations
By Julie Jacques
When it was announced that CEGEPs would be shut down to help protect the population from the COVID-19 pandemic, there was much speculation about how the R-Score would be affected. Since then, schools have been given a clear order from the Ministry of Education: courses taken in the Winter 2020 semester will not be included in R-Score calculations.
Students have differing opinions on the matter; many petitions have been sent around in an effort to implore the Ministry to revoke its decision and instead count the semester’s R-Score solely if it raises one’s global R-Score. Nearly 20,000 signatures have not been enough to convince the Ministry to reconsider its position.
Some students, however, agree with this decision. One first-year Dawson student declares that “it makes sense to accommodate those who may be struggling to keep their grades up,” citing socioeconomic status and mental health problems as issues which could exacerbate inequality and cause lower R-Scores.
Part of students’ disappointment seems to be due to the fact that this was not the Ministry’s original plan. “Who’s to say they won’t change their mind again?” one student questions incredulously. “I’m not sure what to believe anymore,” they continue. The confusion is understandable. The first set of instructions given to schools included three measures that were to be implemented: students would be allowed to request authorized absences, students would be allowed to ask for equivalences, and two R-Score calculations would be made, one which included the semester and one which excluded it. So how did the Ministry go from that to what is assumed to be its final decision?
They came to this decision after conducting several simulations which recognized that following the original proposal would lead to students receiving biased R-Scores.
After the Ministry’s original plan was proposed, three organizations, the Fédération étudiante collégiale, the Fédération des cégeps, and the teacher’s union, requested that the Ministry declare the 2020 Winter semester excluded from any and all R-Score calculations. They came to this decision after conducting several simulations which recognized that following the original proposal would lead to students receiving biased R-Scores. For example, due to the nature of the R-Score, if many weaker students requested authorized absences and dropped a course, the remaining students’ R-Scores would be negatively affected. This forced the Ministry to reconsider their position and finally come to the conclusion that the best way to minimize inequalities for the most students would be to temporarily remove the R-Score calculation. They did not make this decision lightly; students with little to no internet access were considered, as well as student-parents, and international students who may have had to return home in the midst of the pandemic. Still, as aforementioned, not all affected are pleased.
“I feel like the semester doesn’t matter anymore,” one student proclaims. “I was hoping to really improve my R-Score, but now I’m just aiming for a passing grade,” they confess. This attitude seems to have been adopted by many, but at a seemingly uncertain cost. Universities have not yet come forward to explain how they will consider this semester in future admission seasons. Will they gloss over it? Or will they still inspect grades? This remains to be unknown, although some students believe that the government should regulate this as well.
Surely aware of the situation students find themselves in, Diane Gauvin, Dawson College’s Academic Dean, reminds students that this semester’s grades “remain important indicators of [students’] abilities and performance.”