Academic integrity is the moral code of academia
By Rema MenonSpecial to Gulf News
17:33 August 29, 2016
It was an impressive read through the Report produced by the esteemed Rema Menon with its well-rounded focus on a wide spectrum of issues pertaining to the present day ‘Education’.
There was a time just a few decades ago when any Board Exam Student would prepare for the topic, “Television, a boon or a curse?” Today there is a slight yet at the same time, a mammoth shift in the focus- “The Internet, a boon or a curse?”
As observed in the above mentioned Report, we have come a long way through the path of technology; the cyberspace, the internet , Google, Wikipedia are tools which have made knowledge ever so easily accessible. No going to Libraries, looking through the Catalogues of Books, getting desperate and frustrated over the inability to find a required Journal or an Article! Or boarding a train to travel all the way from Punjab to Osmania University, Hyderabad to research for material for a Dissertation!
The academic life for the students of today has become much more simplified, even though the pressures of competitiveness and deadlines may far out weigh all that ever existed before.
Yet, how bright is the prospective of the easy availability of Study Matter for our students? Are the innumerable sites that provide well- researched Notes on any and every Topic aimed at robbing the students of their originality, independent thinking and novel critical insights?
No certainly not! It is for us to decide whether or not to swallow the bitter pill. Living in the midst of a plethora of advantages of the technological aids available to enhance knowledge, it is the basic foundation of Education that needs a reconsideration. The criteria of judging potential and ability needs a regurgitation so that the chances for cheating, plagiarism, fabrication or misrepresentation etc. are minimised.
I fully agree with Rema Menon that students tend to resort to grabbing what they can get easily by way of the ‘cut and paste tool’, under the pressure of meeting deadlines, getting top marks and pleasing Teachers and Parents. The temptation of the easy availability of reading material, leads them to neglect the reality of the blunder that in order to aim for good marks and the top positions, they may be compromising honesty, originality and integrity.
Thus new systems of evaluation such as ‘Internal Assessments’, which have already been incorporated into some curriculums, need to be followed more stringently. New methods of ranking evaluations need be introduced which aim at assessing the students’ individual capability.
· Originality Tests ( in addition to the Aptitude Tests)
· A Regular ‘Assessment’ based on:
· The meeting of Work Pressure
· Innovative Thinking
The students’ free access to the ready-made knowledge available must be given the chance to be used in a manner so that students feel enthused to be able to put the Net-based learning to original work in the school environment under Observation and Supervision while working on their Projects and Thesis. Their mind-sets need to be convinced that as there is total freedom to the boundaries of knowledge, so also there is total freedom to the limits of originality. They may read anything from anywhere, but then leave it at that, not think of producing a rehash to be served on a new platter! The whole concept of ‘Freedom and Responsibility’ has undergone a sea-change through the involvement of the Space!
The whole system of Classroom Teaching needs undergo a refurbishing. With the students’ requirement of making 70% or so contribution to a Class Lesson, what is normally taught in the Classroom should be the ‘Homework’ which should encompass reading and research carried out at home, wherein, the students read and grasp the matter available on their own in their own time and space. School and College hours should be devoted to work written and produced by the students, so that the chances of Plagiarism are minimised. The students need to feel encouraged to ‘make use of the material available’ to produce their own writings, and works, and gradually be weaned out of Supervised work to entirely self- motivated performance.
Thus we may be looking at a triple course learning:
1. The net- based and text-based learning at home
2. Teacher Guidance in School/College
3. Final work submission under Supervision
In short, the students do ample reading through different sources at home, followed by a reinforcement of their knowledge through Class Interaction and minimal of Teacher Guidance leading on to the creation of student work under supervision. Gradually, the idea of plagiarism shall automatically be replaced by the urge for being original. We must remember that we cannot guide our future Leaders ‘by the rod’, we, the adults need to be very innovative and original as well! Above all, we need to convince and earn the trust of the youngsters by leading them on to trust their own potential.
Other than exact Source References, the use of available guides should be minimised by reversing the concept of ‘Home-work’ and ‘Classwork’, the latter being the final criteria of assessment. Rather than the regular time- table, there may be full day allotments or hourly distribution for the Completion of Assignments in the respective subjects in school. The Classrooms could be converted into Workshops, so that students learn the advantages of Group and Team Work, Camaraderie, Time Management and Leadership, and they apply the Net -based learning through individual and original execution.
Examination System mandatory!
There have been innumerable debates over the issue- ‘Whether or not to have the Examination System’. To my mind, the Examination System is mandatory as there has to be world- wide standardisation od knowledge and the criteria of assessment. Thus students across the Globe need to be measured by the same yardstick, so it is doubtful whether the Examination System can be done away with. Nevertheless, it must need be supported through such essential modes of Assessment such as ‘Internal Assessment’ wherein partiality and favouritism need be dumped below the ground by the teaching faculty. It is we the Teachers and the Parents, together, who have to uphold the Torch of Integrity; it cannot be bought at any Mall!
Regular Teacher Tutoring needs be replaced with Teacher Guidance and enhancement of the ‘individual reading as home task’, having been accomplished by the students, individually and independently at home. Much of the regular home-work being done by the students means nothing, as it has sometimes been done half- heartedly or through ‘Tutor Guidance’ or ‘Google Guidance’.
There may be some students, who do not have access to as many resources as the others, their needs may be fulfilled by the necessary provisions in school. We should not forget that some of the Great Men and Women were self- tutored under the street lamp-post! Thus an equal opportunity must be promised to all.
The present system of Teaching in Schools loads the teachers with Correction Work beyond imagination, sometimes making the teachers work more than the students, as they have not only to prepare Lessons Plans, but actually prepare for the actual Lesson in addition to the Heavy Loads of Corrections of Homework, Tests, Projects and the list is endless. All this means that the ‘Carry home’ baggage for a Teacher is heavier than what it is for a student. There are Teachers who actually tag along with them a trolley bag to save their backs and the shoulders! There is serious need of some reconsideration.
Now that the Tablets have been allowed in Schools, the free Wi-Fi availability, must lead to the cultivation of self- discipline engineered and timed between focused perusal of the ready- made research material and the rendering of the original work of the student.
Teacher Correction should be largely replaced by ‘Peer Correction’ which must be strictly observed by all tutors and School Authorities within the Institute. More important than a Class test, for which a student may mug up and take the test, the knowledge thus being gained as soon forgotten, major part of the teaching needs to be devoted to the understanding of concepts, wherein the expert teacher guidance is necessary. This must be followed by further ‘Home reading’ of the available material on the Net, finally, to be transformed into a weekly submission, produced over a couple of hours in School, so that there is little if no doubt at all of plagiarism.
Unless, the ‘Wi-Fi’ discipline is incorporated and adapted by our new generation convincedly and logically, students may be misusing both their time and the freedom of the free access to Net by chatting, or twittering and surfing Facebook pages when they are expected to be studying.
I feel that an abundance of anything takes away the craving- so there is a hope! Our present generation, which is extremely intelligent, can be easily geared towards a more productive performance, which shall come out naturally through their genuine urge. The free access to the boundless ocean of the Internet shall ultimately show them the way how to keep safely afloat through self- discipline, how to use their resources to overcome and beat every oncoming challenge and how to master the waves.
Some of the System rehabilitation could lead to our young generation to find their own passion, which shall lead them to find their own dreams and thus furnish them full force to pursue those dreams.
Thus, the problems of lack of concentration, lack of motivation, low self – esteem, frustration, depression and a sense of general negativity shall automatically be minimised and the social milieu undergo a natural evolution and transformation.
In full support of the points of attention raised in the Article under reference, I would like to reinforce the close collaboration needed between the Teachers, Parents and the Students. They need to work as a Team, the Roles overlapping and changing at times- the teachers playing the parental role and vice-versa; at times, the student being the teacher, likewise. It is a very sensitive yet a volatile relationship which can either make or mar a strong and resilient social system.
By taking a few new steps onto the path of transformation, we may be getting closer to producing more scientists, more writers… more Creators than Followers.
Mrs. Pushpinder Kaur
A GCSE Teacher