|1.||the unauthorized use or close imitation of the language and thoughts of another author and the representation of them as one's own original work.|
|2.||something used and represented in this manner.|
The whole hoolabaloo over plagiarism currently in the Malaysian news is really nothing new, except for the fact that the ones caught plagiarizing now are the teachers not the students. Well, these teachers were once students themselves; if they plagiarised as students, and got away with it, why wouldn't they do it again as teachers?
Back in 2003, a bunch of Malaysian students were caught plagiarizing while studying for an Australian university. Way back in 1996-2000 when i was in university, it was no different. Without getting too specific, i would pin the rate of plagiarism in my graduating class at about 60%; 6 out of every 10 students would cheat on their assignments, lifting whole chapters, paragraphs and ideas out of textbooks or other sources and try to pass them off as their own. Back then, when the Internet was still relatively young, a favourite method was to sift through the stacks of local nearby universities and dig for old theses and copy those; the idea was that lecturers in your university couldn't possibly know what students in other universities had written. It was a disgusting practice.
But, you know what, i find it hard to fault them for what they did. Because, if they didn't do it, they would have failed.
The root cause of the problem is not that students were cheating, that's just a symptom. The reason for the cheating was because very few had a mastery of the English language to think and write well enough to pass without cheating.
It was so obvious. I had a chance to read a classmate's assignment on Chaucer one day. It was excellently written, superb analysis, "original" ideas, and in perfect Queen's English. Impeccable even. The flow of the writing, the seamless movement from one idea to another, the grammar, the diction - outstanding. She was given an "A" for her efforts. I knew there was no way she wrote this herself.
How do i know? Because in her daily conversation, she could hardly string two English sentences together (the same reason why she NEVER volunteered to speak in class); during group sessions, when i would force her to speak by asking her questions directly, her grammar, vocabulary and pronunciation were poor; if you asked her to repeat some of the ideas she wrote by speaking it out loud (this i did, during group sessions), her expression of the same ideas she wrote so eloquently would be garbled and strung together in a bastard child of English and Bahasa Malaysia. Outside of class, she spoke Bahasa Malaysia with the thickest East Coast accent you can imagine, never a word of English. It's impossible she wrote that paper, and most likely any other English paper for which she graded well. During graduation, she was one of the top students from my class.
She had to cheat, because her English wasn't good enough to pass otherwise. Why was her English so poor? Because our secondary school system does very little to make sure that students like her are prepared to face a university system where, to do well, you not only need to be able to speak English passably well, you really do need to be able to think in English too.
Have things changed much today? Yes, they have but for the worse. Back in the day, UIA was one of the few local institutions that used English as the medium of education. Today, nearly all the local universities do. But have the students changed? No, they probably haven't.
My nieces and nephews can hardly put together 3 words in English without fumbling. They hardly watch English cartoons, preferring the Malay-dubbed Japanese shows. They don't read English books (which is the fault of their parents, not the education system). In fact, they don't really read much at all.
In 10 years time, these same kids are expected to go to university, AND be able to write 500 page theses in English. If it wasn't so tragic, it would be hilarious. OF COURSE THEY HAVE TO CHEAT. It's either that, or flunk out.
The Ministry of Education and Higher Education both need to shoulder some of the blame of plagiarists in the system. The root of the problem lies with them. If you don't want people to cheat, you're going to have to equip them with the skills that will allow them to succeed without cheating.