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Dataset:

3 categorical columns with same categorical variables(grades)

I have been trying unsupervised clustering algorithms (K-modes & SOM) to cluster the students based on their grades in 3 exams. Should I one-hot encode the data (even though grades are ordinal), and how do I deal with the fact that the categorical variables are the same across the 3 columns? Would replacing the exam columns with grade columns in the way below lead to better models?

Replaced exams with encoded grades columns

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