Nowadays, cheating in exams and begging for grades are regarded by many students in universities as normal practices. No doubt, this is having a negative impact on quality of education delivered by universities. Our students are more concerned about the grades that they score than the knowledge and skills they should acquire. Thus, they do all they can to cheat in exams to score good grades and if that is not working, they beg their teachers to add marks for them to get better grades. For now, let me talk about cheating cases. I will tell you more about begging for grade, next time in part two of this article.
Naturally, university students are expected to work hard-attend classes, do assignments, undertake projects and read the courses that they are studying to get knowledge and skills and develop a good attitude. They are expected to allocate much of their time for their study because that is why they are at the university. If they do this, they will be competent and productive when they join the job world. Indeed, hard working and competent graduates will help themselves, their family and their nation and that is what exactly we want to see as teachers.
Instead of working hard, our students are seeing cheating as the best way out to score good grades and get a decent job after graduation. They waste their valuable time by fooling around. They are more interested in having fun (chilling out as they call it) instead of prioritizing their studies. They are more concerned about their looks-hair style, dressing style, make up style, etc. We often see them staying late in the night outside campuses to relax themselves. Libraries are empty most of the time, only to be filled when few days are left for exams.
Our students don’t study hard, thus they regard cheating in exams as the only way to get better grades and get a university degree. We could only find very few hardworking students who devote much of their time for study. As far as I know, majority of students we have today at the university see cheating as means to get good grades. I can say everybody cheats or attempts to cheat during exams. Freshman, sophomore, junior or senior, everybody cheats in exams. Students from every stream cheat. English, sociology, Journalism, biology, engineering, computer sciences, agriculture, accounting, and economics-ask me who don’t cheat.
During exams, some students come to exam rooms with cheating friendly short notes called ‘aterera’ as it is known by the university students. Almost everybody comes to exam rooms with ‘aterera’ to use it during exams. These students have devised different mechanism to use the aterera. Some put it under their bottoms so that they can use it when the invigilator is not looking at them. Others put the aterera just under the chair in front of them. Still others keep it in their pockets and take it out when they are sure the invigilator is not looking at them.
Others prefer to copy answers from students whom they think can do in exams better than they do. These students sit behind the clever students or just next to him on the right or the left side so that they can copy the answers easily. The clever students are so cooperatives most of the times in this case and they often make attempts to show answers to those students.
Most recently, these students are using text messaging to exchange answers during exams. Those students who perform better in class finish doing the exams and leave the exam room before time is called to send answers via a text messaging to those who are still in the exam room. Answers for objective type questions (multiple choices, true/false and matching) are very easy to communicate via SMS.
Of course, invigilators tell their students to switch of their phones while taking exams, but very few students actually do that. This afternoon, as I was invigilating a final exam, I caught some students who were using answers sent to them by their friends who left the exam hall early. I was so disappointed with the action and behavior of my students. Actually, I will report this case to the course instructor and hope he punishes these students for their inappropriate behavior during exam.
One amazing thing about those students who cheat in exams is picking up a fight with the invigilators when they are caught red handed. The invigilator has a complete authority to sign on the exam papers of students who are found cheating. When the teacher attempts to do this, they get into argument with the invigilator disturbing the rest of the class and even creating good circumstances for others to cheat. Once, I remember a student from journalism department who tore exam papers in front of his invigilator because she signed on his paper after she caught him cheating.
Truly speaking, one invigilator cannot control the whole class during exams. At least two invigilators should be there to bring things under control. The students are so tricky and deceitful. They have thousands of ways to cheat in exams. It seems that these students waste their time working on how cheat in exams instead of reading and preparing themselves.
But the problem is some teachers don’t come for invigilation and only one invigilator had to stand for two or sometimes more hours to deal with everything. When you do invigilation, you cannot take your eyes for a second from the students. If you do that a lot of damage will be done. Sometimes you see a certain student cheating and when you go to warn him, others take that as an advantage to cheat. As invigilators, we try to bring those students known for cheating in exams to the front. We also disperse them to create a situation that is not comfortable for them to cheat.
Practically, invigilators sign on exam papers of those who cheat. But these students are left unpunished sometimes because the teacher who offers the course doesn’t care about it. In other cases, when a student’s is caught copying from the other students, the invigilator may sign on his paper, but later the student denies that he cheated. He instead accuses the teacher for purposely signing on his paper to harm him. Actually, if the student was using ‘aterera’, then the invigilator has to present the ‘aterera’ attached to the exam papers of those who cheat. If this is not so, the student will never be punished.
It is surprising to see graduating classes cheating in exams. They are going to the world of work tomorrow and serve the society, but they are busy cheating in exams. How do we expect students who are cheating to serve the society honestly or responsibly? Tomorrow, they are going to cheat, exploit and manipulate the society. Once I heard that one student from a certain department graduated with distinction simply by cheating and copying. Her classmates remember her as an expert in the field of cheating. There are dozens of students who graduate this way every year.
We always advise our students not to cheat, but they are not listening to us at all. Many students have come to regard cheating as their inalienable natural rights that enable them graduate from a university. We, teachers, usually complain about the students’ cheating behavior, but we are not seen taking strict measures against those who cheat in exams. Thus, we have to also blame ourselves for the rampant cheating practices in a university.
I think we have to get concerned about this issue more than ever before. Teachers and the university management have to devise strategies that effectively alleviate this problem. Let’s discuss it, formulate effective rules and make our students understand that cheating in exams is a TABOO. If we don’t do this, we keep on compromising with the quality of education that we aim to deliver to our youths thereby making the future of this nation very gloomy.