Student grading


Upon the organization of the National Conference on student grading (December 2014) by the Ministry for National Education, Higher Education and Research, Cnesco was asked to write a report on the International Comparisons of Academic Grading Systems.

This is a first ever work since no international comparison on grading systems on such a broad geographical area had ever been conducted before.

In addition to the legal analysis, the report concentrates on teacher’s grading practices in classes and schools, based on international studies such as PISA, PIRLS and TALIS.

Scientific report

How are students evaluated abroad? Do some countries don’t use a grading system? Do Teachers have to standardize their grading with their colleagues? Can other countries classify their students? How are foreign families informed of their children evolution? Is there a French exception in terms of academic grading?

National particularity regarding Academic grading


Dans les pays de l’OCDE, les réglementations nationales en matière d’évaluation des élèves sont de plus en plus contraignantes

  • For more than 30 years liberty in the definition of teacher’s educational methods have been progressively framed by the adoption of multiple regulations

In OECD countries the development of new rules for academic programs taking the form of academic goals or standards (National curriculum in England or shared base in France), progressively framed the evaluation format of the teachers in classes and schools.

  • The apparition of new evaluation norms lead to a diversification of the evaluation methods that teachers have to use

Some countries like France prefer traditional evaluation methods such as written tests made up by the teachers, when other countries such as Great Britain or Quebec advise or command in their Official ordinances, the organization of new forms of evaluation like self-evaluation, evaluation by one another or the personalized monitoring of the students.

The national political bias has an influence on the grading system of the students

  • Some countries gave up on evaluation systems involving grades, especially in primary school

Some Northern countries such as Finland, Sweden, Denmark or, in the 1990s, the Geneva District, gave up on the grading system, especially regarding primary school.

The grade interdiction doesn’t mean less following up on the teacher’s evaluation. Indeed, in Denmark it means that the teacher has to write a personalized program for each student. It contains academic strengths and weaknesses of the student, a record of the student’s psychological and social development, the academic goals that have to be reached by the student, as well as the academic means and methods that the teacher will have to use in order for the student to reach his/her goals.

  • Other countries replaced the number grading system by an evaluation of the level of action (with a letter grading system for example)

Since 2012 Sweden has related its letters of graduation to very precise standards linked to students’ results and skills. The use of letters to grade students can limit the subjective character of a grade with a number and tends to standardize the evaluations between teachers.

  • For countries that kept the grading system with numbers, the evaluation scales tend to be very diverse

Grading scales can vary depending on the class level and the ways of teaching.

In Germany Primary and Middle schools’ teachers have to grade students on a scale of 1 (very good) to 6 (very insufficient); in high school the evaluation scale varies depending on the ways of teaching. For example in Gymnasium (the elite school) the scale goes from 0 to 15 and in the vocational schools it goes from 1 to 6.

Denmark’s high schools have negative ratings from -2 to 12.

In South Korea and Quebec students are evaluated on a scale of 100.

It has been found that the larger the grading scale is, the more precise the grade gets, which often means that the academic system is a very elitist one.

  • The possibility of grade suppression often raises a lot of question leading to national debates

The possibility of grade suppression often ends up being debated on the national stage and varies depending on which party is in charge at the moment.

The Geneva District suppressed grades in the 1990s and finally decided to put them back after a referendum in 2000 after both parents and teachers asked for it.

In Sweden after the political alternation of 2006, the evaluation scale was changed. It was decided to drop the literary grades (going from “very well” to “insufficient”) in order to generalize a larger grading scale from A to F.

Some teaching practices raise the importance of both a formation regarding students’ grading and cooperation between teachers

  • Studies show that OECD countries have very diverse and multiple ways to grade their students

Some new grading systems such as self-evaluation or the making of portfolios are now part of numerous evaluation systems; some countries however are further advanced in the process. For example, in French middle schools, less than 20% of the teachers declare asking their students to self-evaluate on a regular basis against 70% of British teachers. France is actually the OECD country in which teachers use self-evaluation the least.

  • Although it is current, the actual practice of teacher’s collaboration is least frequent in France than in other OECD countries
    In France, 75% of the teachers use collaboration practices for students’ evaluation. However 20% of middle schools teachers declare they never take part in any mutual scale grading plan. France is actually the first country where teachers from both primary and secondary level don’t participate in these joint plans.On the contrary, Australia, Sweden and Great Britain have only about 5% of teachers who declare they don’t cooperate. In these countries, national policies strongly recommend their teachers to talk together in order to create local teaching tools such as programs and personalized academic progression for each school.
  • French teachers declare that they need training on the students’ evaluation department more often than they colleagues from other OECD countries.

In France the share of teachers declaring that they need training on the students’ evaluation department is slightly superior to the average of TALIS countries (13,6%).

However this need of formation doesn’t go beyond 5% in Great Britain, Finland or Australia. The development in these countries of a national policy focusing on evaluation in the classroom is probably one explanation on this fact.