Rise in students caught cheating

3 02 2010

I use AOL email, for my sins. It’s crap and doesn’t save old emails longer than a couple of months unless you specifically request to save an email into the saved items folder, which is something I’m always forgetting to do, but it syncs with Windows Mail and I’ve had my email address for so long that I don’t want to change it now. *Gasp*. Anyhoo, the AOL.co.uk homepage often has some very amusing tidbits of celebrity gossip and superbly sensationalistic “news” headlines. For instance, today I learned from said AOL home page that Katie Price/Jordan has got married in a Las Vegas ceremony to her cross-dressing, cage-fighting ex-Hollyoaks gonk Alex Reid. I learned yesterday about a body discovered in a flat above an Indian restaurant when blood started dripping through the ceiling – “about a spoonful”, the helpful restaurant owner estimated. It really is quality journalism.

Anyway, one of AOL’s headline news items today was this one: Rise in Students Caught Cheating. Last year, 4500 pupils were allegedly punished or warned for cheating in a public school examination, which equates to 0.03% of exams being affected by cheating scumbags. Hardly enough to make a front page headline, I would have thought, but there you go. Perhaps it was a slow-news day for AOL as Jordan was having a day off.

Surely, as long as there have been exams, there has been cheating. My dad once told me that he wrote some answers on the back of his ruler when he sat his Geography O-Level and that was ages ago. I’m not at all surprised that the number of cheaters isn’t higher, though. Firstly, a lot of the cheating that goes on is probably not reported. Teachers, wanting to do the best for their pupils, however rude or disruptive they might be, would rather quietly take the smuggled dictionary away than making a big scene and ruining that child’s chance to get the only GSCE he will ever pass. Secondly, especially regarding coursework, teachers often help their pupils a little bit more than they should, spelling out exactly what needs to be written in order to meet the marking criteria. Finally, of course, not every cheater gets caught. Two boys in different Chemistry classes, taught by two different teachers could very easily get away with handing in exactly the same coursework, and it’s simple to write a few notes inside of the novel for your English Literature exam.

I hate this tendency among students to see what they can get away with. As a former teacher myself, I’ve seen – and disciplined – plenty of pupils who have handed in copied work, or passed notes during a class test. Perhaps because I’m quite the perfectionist myself, I hate cheating.

Venturing into my newfound career as a freelancer, I am stunned by the number of school and even university students who pimp out their coursework and dissertations to writers on freelance job boards. Just this week I was invited to bid on a project, the title of which was “Need writer for my school essay which is plagarized” [sic]. In this instance, the ad had been deleted before anyone could bid, but I’m sure it goes undetected quite frequently. In fact, I’m ashamed to say, although I didn’t realise it at the time, that I’ve helped a student cheat myself.

A while ago I responded to an advert on Freelancer.com in which the client said that he needed a ghostwriter for an anthology that he was compiling on different medical imaging techniques. The pay was very good and so I happily completed 4500 words on the development and use of Magnetic Resonance Imaging. I found it very interesting. It was only when he asked me to do a second project that looked suspiciously like a university lab report that I began to smell a rat. I had the foresight to google him and found that not only is he involved in some “cash gifting” scam, but also that he was a student of Biomedical Engineering at a top American college. His Facebook page also revealed that he likes a good keg party.

Well, quite. Doesn’t everybody? But my view on cheating is quite clear. It’s wrong. Don’t do it. Examinations are supposed to measure your skills and abilities and it doesn’t really matter if you get an E or a C or an A – your grade is a reflection of you, and if it’s not as good as somebody else, so what? Cheating, if you get away with it, will get you an extra mark or two at most, and if you don’t get away with it, you could be excluded from sitting that exam altogether, faced with the prospect of being branded as a cheat. I worked hard for my GCSEs, my A-Levels and my degree and people who spend too much time partying to do their own work, or who are too busy scamming the pants off people, or who just can’t be bothered to study properly shouldn’t be allowed to get away with it.

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