Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Why do Students Cheat in exams?

Ah, am back with a bang once more. This time with an interesting topic- Cheating. Before you make any assumption, let me clarify that I shall restrict myself mainly to cheating during examinations. For other types of cheating- in business, relationships, etc all you need to do is switch on your television or go through your daily newspaper.
You shall receive more than a healthy dosage; I can assure you of that.

So basically, why do students cheat in their examinations? I can afford to be succinct here by saying-‘For marks’, but then that will create an aura of nonchalance. Okay, let us admit that fact. Majority of the students cheat so that they can get more marks. For the young, it’s understandable. After all, they face tremendous expectations from their parents, who want them to score as high as possible. But when a child is caught using dubious means, and is reported to his parent, the later usually stubbornly denies the fact. ‘My child can never cheat. I have personally given him many values blah blah’, scorns the parent. Then again, the parent can be condoned as well, for he had probably resorted to similar nefarious means in his childhood.

So does that mean everyone cheats during his/her exam, without bothering about the ramifications? And to what effect? First things first. No, obviously every student does not cheat. But it can be estimated that majority have cheated at some point of their life, and almost all have at least helped their classmates while giving examinations. Is it due to our natural altruistic nature? Far from it. Its mainly because we are afraid of being ostracized. If someone refuses to disclose the answers, he is considered as a rude and boisterous selfish fellow, unwilling to help his classmates. Most people do not consider cheating as a sin; in fact they enjoy the thrill they get from it. On the contrary, many take it as a challenge so that they can boast to their friends- ‘Guess what, I managed to copy 20 marks in my Maths exam.’ ‘Only 20? I emulated half the paper from XYZ.’

Sometimes the reason for cheating is genuine. The student may not have prepared anything for his paper. He may be lackadaisical or simply too indolent to open his books and prepare for his exam. He usually remarks that he does not get the time to study. But he got sufficient time to prepare chits to stuff in his pockets. The student may be afraid of failing in his exam. But he does not realize that resorting to unfair means is in fact, a much bigger failure. He may manage to pass, but he will learn nothing. Its better to fail and try again, than to remain a true failure. But just mention the E word, and everyone, right from the student to the parent gets into a frenzy.

They say everything is fair in love, war and examinations. Unfortunately most people have taken this seriously. Let me demonstrate a few situations when a person resorts to cheating:

1) The invigilator is a lethargic person, and does not bother to do his job. Naturally the students get intrigued. It starts off with a casual-‘Hey what’s the answer to ques 4)b’ and then carries on till the student manages to copy every word, usually not even bothering to change the sentence construction. If he is caught, in all probability he will stubbornly deny it, and try to blame the other person. It’s the natural denial tendency almost everyone possesses.

2) In case a person is not sure of his own answer, he tends to verify it from his neighbors. The thing is, we always assume that the other person is right. Moreover if many people write the same answer, and even if it is wrong, we tend to believe that’s probably correct. It’s a typical case of inferiority complex, where the other person always has the better thing. In this case, it may be the answer to a complicated question.

3) Finally, it’s to show the team spirit one possesses, by involving everyone in a mutual discussion. Except of course that discussion is more deadly than helpful.

Cheating can yield short term results, but is very derogatory in the long run. The student will keep procrastinating studying, with the usual remark-‘I will surely prepare well from next time. This time I just have to pass somehow, anyhow.’

Unfortunately, most of us think only about the short terms. The students don’t even know why they are studying and/or cheating. Its high time we guided them towards a better future. They must be made aware of the negative consequences of cheating and the importance of integrity and ethics. But when the children see the grown ups doing unethical things, its no wonder they are inclined towards bad habits.

We are a marks+degree hunger nation. Its time for us to shift our priorities from ‘marks’ to knowledge. We should aim to do something creative, innovative and research oriented rather than fatuously running after marks.


g2 said...

We had a course in which the teacher was excellent... the course itself was taken in a very interactive way which the students loved. For the final exam, the teacher made us sit next to each other like it was any other lecture and at the beginning of the exam announced that "marks are for originality and I trust you to not copy".. He did not even keep an eye on us... and yet no one copied in the exam.

So it is not just the students, it is the system... In universities in America, they have an honor system in which no invigilator sits in the exam but copying is seen as a taboo and hence no one does it...

Satwinder Singh said...

@g2: Yes, very correctly said.

It has a lot to do with the system. But at the same time we must remember that we ourselves are responsible for shaping the system in a negative way, where majority of the students are taught just to run after marks instead of knowledge.

Clearly the education thought process needs a change.

Prerna Munshi said...

I liked it! :)

Satwinder Singh said...

@Prerna: Thanks, keep visiting. Your blog is pretty good too. :)

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