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Cheating or Plagiarism

Updated on March 23, 2010

Cheating and Plagiarism

This is always a topic that is very sensitive - especially in some Asian countries, but some events of the last few days inspire me to make comment on the topic.

It was on Tuesday this week that a colleague and I spotted an article in the China Daily newspaper on the wall in the campus grounds. "Professor sacked for academic plagiarism" the headline read and we read further. You can read the article here. It reminded me of a discussion with a learned educator during one of my last forays into China, when he told me of his concerns about a lot of plagiarism, and he even suggested that some of the "learned" educators I had met had received their honour in a dishonest fashion.

About the same time I met a student who was about to go to Australia to study, and he asked me for some advice. I told him that it was wrong to cheat, and that it would not be accepted in Australia. I knew that shortly before some 35 or so Chinese students had been expelled from a university in Australia for cheating, and I told him so. He went away for a while, but came back and said, something about if he was caught he would just go to another university. I explained to him that his travel documents/student visa would say on it what university he was going to study at, and if he went to another university they could easily find out why he was not studying there any more.

He came back again, (all on the same night) and thanked me for the advice. I do not know if he intended to heed that advice, and I've never seen him since.

Also at the same time, we had a big issue with our final examinations. There was an edict from the school hierarchy that all exams had to be cheat proof, and since my classes were to have their exams on five consecutive days, I knew that by day two many of the ones who had not done their exams on the Monday would know the questions and may well have researched the answers.

We had a number of meetings about the prospects and ways to provide a cheat proof exam. Not easy especially here in the Chinese Education system.

It was also about this time that something else happened. Big banners appeared around the school saying "There will be no more Cheating" and another sign that said "The moral evaluation team had visited the school, and there would be no more teaching."

About that time I found a clandestine copy of an American video,with news and other footage about the revered Chairman Mao, and I've played the part where he talks about "helping each other" and declares it is not cheating. It is just helping each other.

Here I am in 2010, and I find "helping" other students is still a part of life. They copy each others work in class, and if a student is asked a question, others will give him/her the answer. Often they will call it out, or pass a note, or some way "help" their fellow student.

Last night in my evening class I was talking with a student about fingers and hands (the Chinese do not have a word like we do for 'thumb" and also can indicate number with only one had. (We Aussies use 10 fingers to count to 10!).

The student laughingly told me, that this is how easy it is to cheat. The students in exams can easily signal the number of the question and the answer (most questions in exams are multi choice!)

He told me it would never stop in China. He laughed.

I would agree that it is one part of their culture that will be hard to stamp out. The example of the university professor and how the university tried to cover it up is one example. Some of the books we use in school I believe are plagiarized. What other reason would be for strange English grammar/spelling, which is most unlikely to appear in a truly Western document?

There is so much copying of product, and ideas, that infringement of copyright is common. I find it somewhat amusing that the Chinese are accusing Google of copyright infringement, when we al know so much is done here anyway.

As I mark the homework and find so many copied assignments, I do find it all a challenge.  Sometimes I wonder if the students learn anything.


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      David 6 years ago

      I ran into this post doing research on Chinese cheating and plagarism. I looked at that picture, and I was scratching my head. Then I looked at the author...that's my old school! Maybe we both ended up here cause that school (which I won't name here) is really one of the worst in China!

      Anyway, I'm at stinsondm @ gmail dot com if you want to get back to me.