EDITORIAL: Cheating reveals educational failures

Not one, but three fraud scandals have come to light in recent weeks at three Taipei universities. The reactions range from threats to shrugs, with some students writing online that this is a “common occurrence.” Such a clear trend is indeed indicative of a bigger problem, but much of the commentary swirling in its wake missed the point.

In the most controversial case, an anonymous student at National Taiwan University posted a photo on the popular online Dcard forum on November 26 showing a group of students. The poster said the image, which has since been deleted, shows classmates sharing answers during a midterm exam, and promised to report them to the school if the teacher didn’t punish them not. Some commentators responded with threats of violence or claiming they only agreed with their friends, with one even offering up to NT $ 1 million (US $ 36,048) in cash. “Secret money”.

A case at Taipei Medical University on November 19 also involved allegations that students shared answers mid-term. As the large class would have been separated into four rooms to take the exam, the teacher supervised only one room, while the student teaching assistants supervised the other three.

The case of Taipei University was the most absurd. While taking a midterm exam, a student posted a video on Douyin, the Chinese version of TikTok, showing students steaming a bowl of instant noodles and classmates around. them using their cell phones. They even joked that the “closed book exam” instructions written on the blackboard did not say anything about cell phone use.

Given the details of each of the incidents, it is misleading to simply blame the students as “cheating scandals”. It might be more correct to call them “educational failures”, because teachers and universities deserve equal responsibility.

The solution is not ethics education, as some have suggested. The students were keenly aware that they were cheating, as the comments on Dcard showed. An obvious question is: where were the teachers? Just as students are required to maintain the integrity of exams for the sake of their peers, teachers are required to ensure fairness for their students. While this type of cheating is as common as some have suggested, it hints at a deeper problem, and going beyond the blame game could provide much more informative lessons.

There are a number of reasons why students may resort to cheating, requiring different solutions. If the students do not understand the material, but their mark is based on one or two exams, they would naturally look for other solutions to be successful. Instead of expecting these students to ask for help, which could be embarrassing or intimidating, teachers and schools should attempt to identify struggling students and offer their help before it gets too much. late.

Course scoring must also be rethought. Not everyone does well on tests for a variety of reasons, and exams do not necessarily reflect understanding of a subject, only the ability to memorize information and perform well under pressure. Rather, scoring should be based on different classroom activities, thereby reducing the weight given to exams. The tests themselves should be more open, requiring higher-level thinking that incorporates knowledge learned in a course rather than rote memorization.

While the circumstances were inappropriate, the students’ choice to cheat together is also telling. Educators could adapt this slant as an educational tactic and provide more opportunities for students to collaborate, even on tests. This would have the dual benefit of allowing students to teach each other – a very effective teaching tactic – while also preparing them for work.

The problems run deep, but there are solutions that can be adopted immediately and even improve the education system as a whole, provided that teachers and schools are equally willing to shoulder their responsibilities.

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