Plagiarism in Chinese Schools

Maybe I’m being harsh, but for a vast majority of my university students, if they have some form of content lifted from the internet for a project, paper or presentation, they simply copy-paste it and call it a day. That’s their academic integrity. Seriously.

Disclaimer: I am in no way categorically bashing the education system. It has serious merits that I could go on and on about. China is home to some of the best engineers and software developers and rocket scientists in the world. It is home to sheer brilliance on a massive scale. But it doesn’t mean you cannot reflect on the education system.

My friend told me a story regarding exactly this. He’s Canadian and runs a collaboration between his university in Newfoundland and the one here. So basically he oversees absolutely everything. One thing they must do, however, is seminars on academic integrity, with plagiarism being a huge issue. The Chinese students must all attend.

It’s genuinely a massive culture shock to them. In the series though, they were required to write a small research-based paper. One of the students used a website called Write My Essay (which obviously is a place you pay for someone else to write an essay for you) and in his bibliography, he cited that exact website, which is simultaneously hilarious and pitiful. He cited the website he used to cheat.

This just shows how ubiquitous it is here to cheat. He didn’t even realize what he did wrong. He was supposed to write an essay; he did. I’m not saying plagiarism doesn’t exist in American universities, but at least if we cheat we realize what the hell it is we’re doing. It’s more damage control because we know what we’ve done. I’ve caught virtually every single student cheat in my classes, and there’s utter confusion if I threaten with action. To them, the punishment is not commensurate with the crime.

The education system here is so scared of allowing students to think on their own, to do their own research and find their own answers, it basically encourages cheating. And most people I’ve talked to in the industry openly acknowledge it exists.

Copy-pasting an entire report was okay for 3rd grade when you made a poster board on a topic like “Ancient Egyptian Gods” when Wikipedia and ctrl+V were your best friends. It is not okay as a university-level research paper.

I was recently doing a speaking test with my students and they cheated twice.

First, students literally were taking pictures of the test questions, so I confiscated their phones. They pleaded innocent to no avail. After the test I had them open their phones and lo and behold, there were incriminating pictures. They were literally ten feet from me as they took these pictures. They literally rifled through my papers (the questions were in the middle of the stack) and snapped a picture.

Second, outside the door, the students were giving each other answers within earshot of me. Students came in and straight up requested which questions they wanted me to give them, and which they didn’t want. (“Can you give me questions on ‘transportation?’ I heard those were the easiest.”) They were blatantly cheating, but were entirely oblivious. I asked my boss what I should do about it, and she basically just gave the real-life version of that shrugging emoji and muttered, “China?”

(Full disclosure: the featured image of this article is lifted from Mimi and Eunice. Thank God for Wikipedia for helping me find them, too! Everyone should do their part to keep them free!!)

 

Let me know your thoughts on the Chinese education system in the comments below!

Like what you’re reading on China? Check out some other related articles in: The China Chronicles!

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