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Did western education give world the concept of academic dishonesty?

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By Anurag Paul

The world is going gaga over the Bihar Cheating scandal. This case of cheating has amused the western media to such an extent that elaborate opinion pieces are written on this subject.

Though cheating is condemned as it kills the essence of learning, highlighting only one side of the  story will not curtail this world wide phenomenon.

Here’s a look at the cheating trends across the US and rest of the world.

Issue of Cheating – Data reveals it all

In the United States, studies show that 20% of students started cheating in the first grade. Similarly, other studies reveal that currently in the US, 56% of middle school students and 70% of high school students have cheated. A large-scale study in Germany found that 75% of the university students admitted that they conducted at least one of seven types of academic misconduct (such as plagiarism or falsifying data) within the previous six months.

History of Cheating

In ancient times, the concept of cheating or academic dishonesty was not recognised. Ideas were the common property of the literate elite class. Books were published by hand-copying them. Scholars freely made digests or commentaries based on other works, which could contain as much or as little original material as the author desired. There was no standard system of citation, because printing—and its resulting fixed system—was in the future.

Scholars were an elite and small group who knew and generally trusted each other. This system continued through the European Middle Ages.

Academic dishonesty dates back to the first tests. Scholars note that cheating was prevalent on the Chinese civil service exams thousands of years ago, even when cheating carried the penalty of death for both examinee and examiner.

In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, cheating was widespread at college campuses in the United States, and was not considered dishonourable among students. It has been estimated that as many as two-thirds of students cheated at some point of their college careers at the turn of the 20th century.  As higher education in the U.S. trended towards meritocracy, however, a greater emphasis was put on anti-cheating policies, and the newly diverse student bodies tended to arrive with a more negative view of academic dishonesty.

Students are not the only ones to cheat in an academic setting

A study among North Carolina school teachers found that some 35 per cent of respondents said they had witnessed their colleagues cheating in one form or another. The rise of high-stakes testing and the consequences of the results on the teacher is cited as a reason why a teacher might want to inflate the results of their students.

The first scholarly studies in the 1960s of academic dishonesty in higher education found that nationally in the US, somewhere between 50%-70% of college students had cheated at least once. While nationally, these rates of cheating in the US remain stable today, there are large disparities between different schools, depending on the size, selectivity, and anti-cheating policies of the school. Generally, the smaller and more selective the college, the less cheating occurs there.

As for graduate education, a recent study found that 56% of MBA students admitted cheating, along with 54% of graduate students in engineering, 48% in education, and 45% in law.

Cheating in high schools is growing in the United States. There is also a great difference in students’ perceptions and the realty of their own ethical behaviour. In a 2008 survey of 30,000 students in high school carried out by the Josephson Institute for Youth Ethics, 62 per cent of students polled said they “copied another’s homework two or more times in the past year.”Yet, on the same survey, 92 percent said they were “satisfied with their personal ethics and character.”Hence, there is generally a discrepancy between actual behavior and self-image of high school students’ character.

Cheating in Online tests

Moreover, there are online services that offer to prepare any kind of homework of high school and college level and take online tests for students. While administrators are often aware of such websites, they have been unsuccessful in curbing cheating in homework and non-proctored online tests, resorting to a recommendation by the Ohio Mathematics Association to derive at least 80% of the grade of online classes from proctored tests.

How Students usually cheat during the examination?

People generally apply different strategies of cheating during the academic examinations. Cheating can take the form of crib notes, looking over someone’s shoulder during an exam, or any forbidden sharing of information between students regarding an exam or exercise.

Recent development in cheating methodology

Many elaborate methods of cheating have been developed over the years. For example, students have been documented hiding notes in the bathroom toilet tank, in the brims of their baseball caps, or up their sleeves. Also, the storing of information in graphing calculators, pagers, cell phones, and other electronic devices has cropped up since the information revolution began.

Traditional methods still works

Students have long surreptitiously scanned the tests of those seated near them,  some students actively try to aid those who are trying to cheat. Methods of secretly signalling the right answer to friends are quite varied, ranging from coded sneezes or pencil tapping to high-pitched noises beyond the hearing range of most teachers. Some students have been known to use more elaborate means, such as using a system of repetitive body signals like hand movements or foot jerking to distribute answers (i.e. where a tap of the foot could correspond to answer “A”, two taps for answer “B”, and so on).

Negative impact of Cheating

Cheating in academics has a host of negative effects on students, on teachers, on individual schools, and on the educational system itself. Indeed, one study found that students who are dishonest in class are more likely to engage in fraud and theft on the job when they enter the workplace.

 

 

 

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