I can not understand an educational system that does not have a policy for incompletes.
Yet here I am working in Taiwan.
Picture this: I have a student who was in a scooter accident. She broke her leg. At that time, she had completed 2 out of 5 speeches and she was unable to attend class for the rest of the semester (hospital time, Taiwanese parents, etc). I have two options:
1) Fail her – This would be horribly unfair to her, as she had already completed some course work. She would have to retake the course again and do all the work again, including the 2 speeches she had already done. Plus, she would have had to pay for the course again.
2) Pass her – I could have given her a passing grade or given her the grade only for the assignments she had finished. This would have been horribly unfair to all the other students. All of them had completed 5 speeches, she had only completed two. Why should she do so much less work and still pass?
In an American or European education system, you would be able to give her an incomplete. This means that she could take an independent study with you the next semester or sign up for the same course the next time it was offered. Her previous work would count towards her grade and she would simply have to finish the coursework she had not yet completed. You could then give her a grade, and all would be well.
Now, to be fair, I can do this in Taiwan. However, would you believe it, it affects my Teaching Evaluation negatively. Why, you may ask? Because it looks like I screwed up. That’s right. It looks like it’s my mistake that the student couldn’t attend class and had to take an incomplete. This is completely ridiculous. It’s no one’s fault – this is Taiwan, the country where students don’t come to class if they have their period. There must be thousands of students every semester in Taiwan who can’t complete coursework due to illness or other reasons. Why is there no system in place to protect these students and the teachers?
After arguing with the school, we reached a compromise – I can give her an incomplete, but the coursework must be finished and the final grade submitted before the next semester starts on February 16. This is about as good as it gets, but the fact that there is no true “incomplete” in the Taiwanese educational system worries me. How many students get a failing (or passing) grade every semester that they don’t deserve or didn’t earn? How many have to retake courses, paying again for expensive tuition that their families can barely afford? Where are the policies to protect students?