Is a Sense of Entitlement Hurting International Students? by Steven E. Hudson

The academic year is coming to a close and ‘of course’ students are concerned about their grades.  This is normal, but obsessing over “an A” is not normal.  On ‘international school campuses’ world-wide students are ‘claiming’ I must have an “A”, I paid money (actually their parents or their parents’ company paid) and I deserve an “A”, I won’t get into ____ unless I have an “A”, I did all my work you have to give me an “A”, et cetera and ad nauseam.

 The experiences of many teachers are similar to those of Dr. Grossman …

 Prof. Marshall Grossman has come to expect complaints whenever he returns graded papers in his English classes at the University of Maryland.

“Many students come in with the conviction that they’ve worked hard and deserve a higher mark,” Professor Grossman said. “Some assert that they have never gotten a grade as low as this before.”

He attributes those complaints to his students’ sense of entitlement.

“I tell my classes that if they just do what they are supposed to do and meet the standard requirements, that they will earn a C,” he said. “That is the default grade. They see the default grade as an A.”

 Since the majority of students attending international campuses aspire to attend major, world class universities we find from a 2008 study conducted by Ellen Greenberger, et al. at the University of California, Irvine and quoted in Student Incivility, Intimidation, and Entitlement in Academia, Barb Holdcroft that among university students…

  • 2 percent of students believe that “trying hard” should result in a good grade;
  • 7 percent believe that completing most of the reading for a course should result in a B grade;
  • 5 percent believe that a professor should respond to an e-mail the same day it was sent; and
  • 5 percent believe that students should be allowed to take calls during class.

When one adds to this some facts concerning some, but not all, students attending an international campus we find …

  • that they feel that amount they pay in tuition ‘entitles’ them to high grades;
  • they feel that they are entitled to use their ‘technological devices’ when and where they desire, and that consequences do not apply to them;
  • they feel that classroom rules, due the status their family has in the community and/or corporate structure, entitles them to special consideration;
  • they feel that they have the right, due the status their family has in the community and/or corporate structure, to arrive or leave as they wish without consequences;
  • that they feel they should be given ‘credit’, in the form of a grade, when they prepare for a class;
  • that they feel entitled to certain grades, regardless of whether or not they have earned them; and,
  • they should receive the highest grade possible for plagiarizing material for a presentation, project, research paper and not face penalties.

When one considers the average, and or mathematical mean, of the numbers from 1 to 100 one finds that the average and/or mean is 50 or 50%.  When one considers the normal grading scale we find that ‘average; is half-way between an “F” and an “A” or a grade of “C”.

In her blog posted on Prep Scholar Samantha Lindsey states the following …

 “The overall average GPA nationally is a 3.0, but this may be deceptive.  The average in core subject areas is actually a bit lower.  The average GPA is brought up to a 3.0 by the higher grades that students receive in courses that are not part of the core curriculum  The core curriculum in the data that I looked at was considered to be math, science, English, and social studies courses.  The average GPAs for these different types of courses were the following:

Math: 2.6

Science: 2.70

English: 2.85

Social studies: 2.89

“This shows that students tend to have lower average GPAs in math and science courses compared to English and social studies courses.”

 So, since the scores, as Ms. Lindsey, states them are well within the rage of scores from 2.0 to 2.9, which is defined as a “C” then one has to arrive at the understanding that the ‘average student performance in the core subjects’ is a “C average.  How then, is it possible, that it seems as if the majority of students feel they are entitled to a grade of an “A” or a “B” when they only do average or below average work.

The real questions go even deeper …

  • Are education professionals – teachers, administrators, etc. in the business of making students feel good or are we in the business of preparing student for their future?
  • Is it more important to tell the truth and prepare a student for the ‘possible failures and/or shortcomings they may/will face in their future or is it the role of the school do help students feel good about themselves and not tell the truth?
  • Are we, as professionals, doing a ‘service’ or a disservice when we inflate grades or allow students to feel entitled?

A last thought … it has been my privilege since 1982 to teach in a variety of settings, environments, countries and levels of educational institutions and for this I am extremely grateful.  However, it seems as if this “sense of entitlement” which appears to prevail across societies has grown in the recent decades.

Is it only me or are you too concerned about the quality of the product that we, as professionals, are placing into society when we allow the concept of ‘entitlement’ to cloud our judgement … are we really protecting the child from having low self-esteem, confidence, etc. or are we protecting ourselves from those who practice arrogance by virtue of ignorance … in simple words, if we lie, and that is exactly what it is, when we “adjust and/or modify” grades, are we really serving the interests of society or are we serving our own interests, which may verge on being selfish to avoid conflict, not be liked, avoiding having parents pounding on your classroom/office door, etc.?

Comments? Please Scroll Down



Roosevelt, Max (2009) Student Expectations Seen as Causing Grade Disputes. Feb 17, New York Times (

Holdcroft, Barb.  Student Incivility, Intimidation, and Entitlement in Academia in American Association of College Professors, May – June 2014 ( academia)

Paslay Christopher (2012)  Why Students Feel Entitled to( Grades they Haven’t Earned in Chalk and Talk, November 14.  (

Lindsay Samantha (2015) SAT / ACT Prep Online Guides and Tips:  What’s the Average High School GPA? In PrepScholar, Aug 7.  (


12 thoughts on “Is a Sense of Entitlement Hurting International Students? by Steven E. Hudson

  1. Sadly, I see that we are missing the point in this article and in some of our responses. The questions we should be asking ourselves and the powers that be are:

    1) Do grades actually tell us anything worthwhile and significant?
    2) Do children simply represent ¨products¨that we are spewing into the academic or commercial marketplace or are they more important than that?
    3) Are we part of the problem, since we are definitely part and parcel of the institution of traditional education, rather than being avant-garde and courageous iconoclasts?
    4) Does this sense of entitlement come from our sense of engendering competition between students and our unmerited adoration of winners and losers in academia?
    5) Are there children who are just incapable of achieving or is it ,in actual fact, that we have ceaselessly classified them, consciously and subconsciously as being worthwhile or worthless and so we teach them that way as well?
    6) Shouldn’t we be asking ourselves why the dropout rate worldwide is nearing 33% in many cases and that those who fail in academia often fail in life as well?

    There are many other questions dealing with testing, discipline, creativity, classroom management, parental inclusion, communication with stakeholders etc. that need to be reviewed before we can conclude that the current system is appropriate and that entitled students are a danger to its aegis.


  2. Eventually, at some point, some schools will start to define appropriate behavior when dealing in the school or on social media, and hold each student and parent accountable (may include everyone) accountable. Defining what the school’s culture is, and what is the appropriate way to act and communicate at school and out of school. Defining the grounds for students/parents (or anyone) to be asked to leave the school, on the grounds of the standards a school sets forth. And it is up to the school to determine where’s the line and the behaviors that reflect their school.

    It may be a while to get t this point.


  3. I have always tried to work in the best schools (accredited, established, non-profit, etc.) and have never encountered a general sense of entitlement — just a couple of families here and there.

    That said, I have found that the most sense of entitlement comes from schools with heavy embassy ties and larger proportions of diplomatic dependent students — and usually from parents more than the students. Something about being a diplomatic staffer seems to convince people that the world owes them everything they want.

    The perks of working in an embassy-affiliated school can be nice, but they often come with the need to navigate a tricky web of parent-student-administrator politics in which there is a knife edge between your professional integrity and job survival.


  4. I work in such a poisonous environment that when student’s get papers back and they dislike their grades they will in concert, stand and hurl abuse – someone will take out a phone video the scene, send it to a parent who will in turn bring it to the schools director. A teacher will then be either given notice that their services will no longer be required, the class reassigned, or the teacher put on review. All this following positive evaluations from administration.


  5. I always found close communication between me and parents to be crucial. When I taught in international schools I had my students and their parents (or tutors, guardians etc as pertinent) sign a detailed descriptor of my rules for homework, class work, formative and summative assessments. I filed these, so the ‘I didn’t know that’ excuse couldn’t be used. All homework was signed by parents or tutors etc. Quizzes and tests were sent home, with brief written comments, and had to be signed. This could be tough on students who didn’t do as well as they or parents hoped, but did open up opportunities for dialogue.
    I was occasionally fed the line ‘my child always got As before he/she had you.’ I commiserated, was sympathetic, acknowledged I was a high demand teacher – and always checked previous records if possible! Funny how often said student had NOT ‘always got As’ before they had me.
    I sometimes had queries, but was never unduly hassled; mostly, I think, because I always explained my reasoning to kids and parents as: when you go out into the wide, wicked world, sometimes you’ll do well and sometimes you’ll struggle, better to learn how to deal with tough situations now, in a safe classroom environment.
    I just loathe this sense of entitlement stuff; it isn’t just a pain in the butt for teachers and admin, it severely limits the opportunities for students to learn, grow, discover their potential, to become autonomous and to fly!


  6. This is not a new phenomenon. It is prevalent especially at the tertiary level where people pay a lot of money to get degrees. This is what happens when formerly public institutions become for profit and privatised. Students become customers and the customer is always right. The chickens of capitalism come home to roost in the form of the culture of instant gratification. We’ve certainly created a monster.
    At the school I work at, no student ever fails. They are all winners! Even the ones that cannot string together a single coherent sentence even after 12 years of schooling. I basically tell my students that a D grade is equivalent to a fail.


  7. The best response would be that it depends on the age group.To send students out into the world in a delusional state does no one a favor. To rip the dignity from students because “I possess the truth”, is equally destructive. Pressure from parents can be immense but with supportive administration a balance can be struck so that all can be satisfied with the outcome.
    Now I am off my wisdom high horse, we are all relieved when the unsatisfied march into the sunset. Did I say supportive administration. Generally you sail your own boat and do your own bailing.


  8. If you are in a good school with supportive parents and exemplary resources then it is not unrealistic to expect the majority of students to achieve high scores despite language difficulties. We identify students at risk very early on and they come before school for extra class and get extra study sessions. Most of our students do achieve top scores – because they put a lot of work in! It depends on whether your admin encourages an ethos of entitlement or an ethos of hard work and whether they will finance the extra staff for intervention activities


  9. Agree with the article above. I have seen it all. I teach at a school where those attitudes are present in abundance. I have determined that although it might go on around me and I resist these attitudes of students when I see them, that at some point you have to accept the reality of the situation and make your peace with it or leave. Fortunately I teach at a non-profit. Those teachers at for-profit schools are much more likely to see students with the entitlement disease.


  10. After more than 30 years of university teaching in the U.S. and abroad, I’m fed up with entitled students, their helicopter parents and deans/administrators just wanting to keep their too-high paying, too-little working jobs. F*ck ’em all. You want the grade – earn it.


  11. Seriously? How about considering the effect of parents’/students’ verbal & physical intimidation on your grade-giving? With no management/administrative backing to support you when you refuse to artificially inflate grades? It’s dangerous out there! How much do we really care about the self-worth of an arrogant, lazy student and his intimidating parents who will essentially buy his way through the rest of his life? Give me a break!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.