International Campus Media

Schools Struggle to Discourage Student Cheating

While many students admit to cheating, experts say there are a growing number of reports from U.S. higher education institutions of cheating among international students.

“I do think we have some challenges with international students at this point,” David Rettinger of the International Center for Academic Integrity told VOA.

Last week, U.S. federal law enforcement agents arrested four Chinese nationals who are accused in a test cheating scheme. A student with better English language skills took English proficiency tests for others, the [[indictment]] says. Authorities charged them with conspiring to defraud the United States. If convicted they could face up to five years in prison, up to three years in supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.

While this case is exceptional, Rettinger said schools accepting students from other countries need to be aware of language and cultural differences, as well as the personal and family pressures that could provoke a student to cheat.

“With the huge increase in international students in the United States, the expectations that we often have for them are not in line with what they have learned in their home countries or the countries they were educated in,” Rettinger said. “So they experience a great deal of cultural shock when they come to the U.S. and one of them is expectations with regard to academic integrity.”

Rettinger said ICAI is working with colleges and universities around the nation to help them deal with cultural gaps and misunderstandings that can lead to problems. There are more than 1 million students from other countries studying in the United States, and not all schools may be prepared to help international students adjust.

What Makes People Cheat?

But Rettinger says most cheating, by people in general, can be explained by each person’s ethical self-image and how much that holds them back from doing something dishonest or by how they view the educational experience itself.

“If you see school as intrinsically motivating, that education is a powerful tool that you are using to better yourself and that learning is in itself the end, you are unlikely to cheat,” he said. “But if you see school as something that is extrinsically valued that your society, your parents, finances, job might value, then you are not necessarily valuing the process.”

Rettinger said some students become fixated on the immediate goal: getting a degree or getting a good job after graduation. These students, he said, may lose sight of the value of an education and how it can help them.

American students also have been caught in cheating scandals. In 2012, 78 cadets at the Air Force Academy were punished for cheating on a math exam. That same year, students at Harvard were accused of violating rules by working together on essays that were meant to be written alone.

High-Tech Tools

Some high-tech solutions are being marketed to help detect cheating. The web service Turnitin analyzes writing to detect plagiarism in a student’s paper. The software Proctortrack monitors online test-takers through a webcam. Some of the same systems used by security firms can also monitor test-takers in a classroom.

But Rettinger said none of these programs solves cheating, partly because computer programs can make a mistake. It’s important for a professor to follow up.

“It is kind of a technological arms race,” he said. “The students generally tend to be ahead of us. So, to my mind, the bigger issue is: How do we help students to see the value in what we are doing?”

In a November 2012 survey conducted by the Josephson Institute of Ethics, 51 percent of students admitted to cheating during the past year. More troubling, experts say, is 57 percent of students agreed with the statement that, “In the real world, successful people do what they have to to win, even if others consider it cheating.”

SOURCE: STUDENT UNION