In this week's post, Brandon describes five ways college classes work in Ireland from his experience at Griffith College and what you should be prepared for.
Before coming to Dublin, I really had no idea about how the Irish school system worked. I didn’t know how grading was carried out or what professors would expect of me academically. In order to make sure that other students coming to Griffith College aren’t similarly in the dark, this blog post will be dedicated to describing how college here in Ireland works.
First of all, grading is completely different in Irish schools. Instead of grading scales going from 1 to 100, Irish grading scales go from 1 to 70 (and sometimes 80 depending on the class). In simple terms, a 1 is considered a “0” and a 70 is seen as a “100” in Irish schools. Don’t ask me why, I personally think it’s ridiculous and no one can seem to tell me why it works this way. In the U.S., if I received a 95 on an essay, my letter grade would be put in as an A+. However, here in Ireland, in order to get an A+, you have to get a 65 or higher. When I got back my first essay last week and saw that I got a 66, I nearly had a heart attack because I thought I got a D on a major assignment.
An assignment I wrote for one of my courses.
Secondly, don’t expect to get high grades (65 or higher). These are rare as a junior. Just as grading scales work differently here in Ireland, opinions about grading differ, too. In Ireland, it is expected that you won’t get anywhere near a 70 until your senior year because a 70 means that you are near perfection in whatever major you’re taking. In the view of Irish professors, there is no way that a freshman or sophomore in college could ever get a 70 because they haven’t been educated in the field for that long. As a freshman, you can expect to get a 30 as a good grade. As a sophomore, you can expect to get a 40 or maybe 50 as a good grade. And so on and so forth, with each year the definition of a “good grade” growing steadily higher until you reach a 70 in your senior year.
Thirdly, I know that I’ve been calling the years “freshman,” “sophomore,” “junior,” and “senior,” but this is incorrect (I was using these labels to make the previous topic easier to grasp for those of you in the U.S.). Students here typically only go to college for 3 years. If you’re in school for 4 years or more, you are usually going for a graduate degree rather than an undergraduate. Most of the students that you are taking classes with are the same age, whether it be 20 or 21, but they’re planning to graduate a year earlier.
A short rubric for my International Business Environment course.
Fourthly, if you have an Irish professor, expect that assignment guidelines are going to be ambiguous and not explained well. Rubrics are a rarity here. Irish culture is high context, meaning that it is anticipated that you will naturally read in between the lines and figure it out yourself. American culture is low context. We expect strict and distinct instructions. The Irish style of teaching is jarring, but in my opinion, it prepares you for the future in a way that American culture does not. In the real world, tasks are thrown at you and you’re expected to just know what to do or take initiative and carry it out yourself. I have gained an incredible degree of academic independence due to my normal Griffith courses. However, if you’re having trouble understanding what is expected of you, questions are welcomed, and professors are extremely eager to help you understand.
A makeshift cover sheet for an assignment that I forgot to print out last minute,
but thankfully my professor accepted it.
Finally, make sure that you print out the Griffith College cover page for all of your hard-copy assignments. It’s posted on Moodle.com, and you are required to staple it to the front of all of your essays. It’s basically a legal agreement between you and the professor that says that you’ve submitted your assignment and what your class number is, who your professor is, etc...
I hope that this blog post cleared up some questions that you may have about how school works in Ireland, and maybe some questions that you never thought to ask! I look forward to writing my next blog post and hope you have a great week!
Brandon's journey continues every Friday so stay tuned.