Academic Honesty Under Threat

I found this article both worrying and interesting as it deals with an apparent decline in academic integrity with greater and greater numbers of students resorting to cheating. What’s more, it’s clear that this isn’t particularly cheating by students at the bottom of the performance ladder, but often those near the top.

Mindshift Article on Academic Dishonesty

It would be all too easy to explain away what’s happening on the basis of general societal slide in ethical behaviour, but I think instead it is more important to consider seriously the extent to which the education system itself may be leading to systemically driven failure.

We have education systems that claim to acknowledge that if you want to have motivated students you should focus on effort, not on outcomes – yet maintains the big and ultimate rewards to be dished out on the basis of outcomes. We have a system in which, in most countries of the world, too many children are being encouraged to believe that their success in the future will be determined by the right ‘labels’ on their CV. As a result, admission in to all but a handful of colleges is deemed almost to be a badge of failure.

We need a system that doesn’t put every product of Harvard, Yale, Oxford, Cambridge, IIMs and IITs on pedestals as demi-gods, whilst looking disdainfully down on those who have come out of so-called lesser colleges. The fact is that in a healthy education system I (ME) would be responsible for my achievements – not the institute in which i studied. So, I can be acknowledged to be a weak product out of Harvard because I didn’t put in the effort and make the best of my time there, or a great output of xyz university who squeezed out every ounce of opportunity to learn (and continues to do so long after leaving college).

Employing people, even in a country like India, is getting increasingly expensive. Employers have to be sophisticated and smart enough to gear their systems to find people with the right attributes and not take easy, short cuts that involve blindly taking those who are the products of a handful of colleges. Then, students would not place all their focus on such narrow definitions of success, but would be aware that there are infinite ways to succeed. Then, they might be more willing to treat examinations as a means to test themselves and show themselves in a true light, rather than being tempted to resort to unethical means.

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