Dubai: Academic cheating is prevalent worldwide and has in fact seen a steady increase in recent decades as the digital era facilitates more sophisticated and creative cheating methods. Amidst the UAE’s booming education sector, Gulf News learns the extent of academic cheating in the UAE. We speak to lead researcher on the topic of e-cheating in the UAE, Zeenath Reza Khan, Senior Instructor at the University of Wollongong in Dubai.
I have primarily studied university students in the UAE and more than 78 per cent of students surveyed admitted to engaging in some form of cheating. This makes it a major problem in the education sector because it raises serious concern regarding the academic integrity of the graduates being churned out to the UAE’s workforce.
Q: Is cheating a problem among students in the UAE?
A: Yes, cheating is a serious problem in the UAE; actually it is a serious problem anywhere in the world. I have primarily studied university students in the UAE and more than 78 per cent of students surveyed admitted to engaging in some form of cheating. This makes it a major problem in the education sector because it raises serious concern regarding the academic integrity of the graduates being churned out to the UAE’s workforce.
Q: What does the recent data show?
A: My research is focused on the UAE and e-cheating specifically rather than traditional cheating. The analysis of more than 1000 student surveys since 2009 has shown that 37.5 per cent of students took part in some form of traditional cheating; like cheating with friends during exams, using text books or other print materials in exams.
This is shockingly lower than those reported by researchers around the world who have reported percentages between 65 to 75 per cent in the US and UK.
While this may have been true for classrooms without technology or before the onset of the digital era, the findings of my study highlight a different scenario.
Due to readily available technology, 78 per cent of the students admitted to some form of e-cheating with the use of technology inside or outside the classrooms.
Where the traditional ‘looking over the shoulder’ cheaters may have reduced, it is worthy to note this can be attributed to the fact that they are possibly communicating through other mediums to get the answers.
Q: Why do you think students in the UAE cheat?
A: In the UAE students either have a laid-back attitude where they wait to work on an assignment or study for an exam at the last minute. Or they have too much happening in their lives, which means they have less time to study. Other reasons include parental and teacher attitudes.
Student cheating has been impacted in part by teachers who look the other way and are themselves unaware of the varying degrees of cheating or the methods used.
Piracy is a problem the UAE government has been tackling for a while and my studies have shown students who are relaxed about software, movies and music piracy are also more inclined to cheat on exams or assignments.
Then there is competition, some students are under tremendous pressure to excel no matter what. When these students feel they are falling behind, they cheat.
My research is focusing on studying the various societal factors that are impacting students’ attitude towards e-cheating in the UAE.
Q: What has technology done for student cheating in the UAE?
A: The use of technology by student cheaters regardless of their background has leapt more than 200 per cent between 2008 and 2011. However, students are not actually taught technology etiquette. For instance, students who use online learning systems in class are asked to download notes to study and sometimes reproduce; but they are not told why that is acceptable. For students unaware of plagiarism, this helps blur the lines between academic integrity and dishonesty.