Cheating students on the rise - survey
Johannesburg - A survey has found that universities are battling a rising tide of cheating by students who brazenly take the easy route to a qualification, reports the Sunday Times.
The study done by the Sunday Times, found that crib notes on the inside of a t-shirt, on rulers or the back of calculators was common and while more than 1 400 students have been found guilty of such dishonesty in the past year, this was just the tip of the iceberg as many were never caught.
These figures however, were from only 10 of 23 tertiary education institutions in the country as the rest failed to respond to a request for data.
This comes after growing concern among academics that cheating was on the rise - including the sale of exam papers and plagiarism.
Echoing the sentiments of Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande, the deputy minister, Mduduzi Manana said he was worried about the trend and that academics were speaking out.
Academics’ register considered
In response to the problem, Unisa has taken a stance against the issue and has so far barred 519 students from studying for at least three years after they were found to have used “unauthorised material” during exams and it also permanently expelled 20 students for buying or selling exam papers.
Meanwhile, in what could be a world first, the body representing the vice-chancellors of South Africa’s 25 universities is considering the establishment of a register to keep track of academics found guilty of misconduct.
According to the CEO of Higher Education South Africa (Hesa) Jeffrey Mabelebele, the names of those found guilty during disciplinary hearings could be filed in a database which would assist universities when making new academic appointments.
A number of academics have been fired or suspended in the past year for misconduct. This includes three from the University of the Witwatersrand who were found guilty of sexual harassment; one from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University for making false claims on his CV and one from North-West University for plagiarism and gross insubordination among others.
However, the problem of cheating is a global one that has raised the red flag for thousands of academics.
As recently as 2012, the UK’s Independent revealed that between 2009 and 2011, more than 45 000 students at 80 institutions had been hauled before college authorities and found guilty of academic misconduct ranging from bringing crib-sheets or mobile phones into exams to paying private firms to write essays for them.
According to their statistics, some 16 000 cases were recorded in 2011 alone, as university chiefs spent millions on software to identify work reproduced from published material, or simply cut and pasted from the internet.
But officials at the time warned they were fighting a losing battle against hi-tech advances – which means it is becoming increasingly difficult to detect the cheats.
An advice services manager at Anglia Ruskin University Students' Union, warned that advances in technology had made it "nearly impossible" for universities to keep up.
"It's only going to get worse," she said.
The US Education Portal meanwhile states that in 1940, only 20% of college students in the US admitted to cheating during their academic careers. Today, that number has increased to a range of 75% to 98%.
According to them, cheating typically begins in school and nine out of ten high school students in the US admit to copying someone else's homework; two-thirds say they have cheated on exams.
In addition to this, 75% to 98% of university students surveyed each year admit to cheating at some time in their academic careers.
Cheating to pass or cheating to get ahead?
Education Portal states that although the number of students admitting to cheating has increased significantly over the last 60 years, students aren't just cheating to pass, they're cheating to get ahead.
According to a survey by the Josephson Institute of Ethics in the US, of 12 000 high school students, 74% admitted to cheating on an exam at some point during the past year to get ahead.
Michael Josephson, the president of the Josephson Institute of Ethics said that students these days are more willing to cheat, and parents, teachers and other authoritative figures are having a difficult time reversing the trend.