Concerns over growth of cheating among students [Archives:2007/1097/Reportage]

October 25 2007

By: Alia Ishaq
For Yemen Times

There's growing concern that Yemen's education system is being undermined by students cheating on exams. Parents, teachers, universities and employers are calling for action to stop the practice and guarantee greater fairness.

The Yemen Times has been investigating this issue. Reporter and recent student Alia Ishaq answers questions regarding how widespread cheating is and who's responsible.

Cheating, or what students refer to as “helping each other,” is a problem that occurs in nearly every school worldwide. It is a major complaint of teachers and educators who consider it a catastrophe that will affect generations, especially in Yemen where the number of students copying answers – and sometimes, whole exams – is worrying.

It's a strange phenomenon where some students spend hours creating new methods of cheating rather than simply studying. “We cheat with rulers, erasers, benches, our hands – even tissue paper!” Sana'a high school student Bushra Al-Basheri explains.

But the creativity doesn't stop there, as some students confess to writing answers on small slips of paper and inserting them in their shoes! Teachers also have witnessed students pulling long slips of paper with the answers through their shirtsleeves or even writing them on money.

During my middle school years, opening the book to catch a glimpse of the answer or whispering to a friend was the best we could do. However, the increasingly sophisticated methods nowadays reveal the vast imagination and intelligence of some students, although misdirected in the wrong way.

So, what are the reasons for this phenomenon and what's the solution?

In the absence of a good education system, dedicated teachers and relevant curriculums, especially in public schools, cheating becomes a matter of survival.

Public school graduate Najla Al-Hatami recalls, “There was always obvious negligence by our teachers, most of whom were unqualified, and to make matters worse, they were unsupervised by the school administration,” which meant that a lot of average students therefore had no choice but to cheat in order to pass.

In 11th-grader Abeer Al-Ward's opinion, the intensity of homework and class syllabuses are the two main reasons for cheating, as she thinks they make it hard to find time to study and achieve good marks. In this case, many students cheat because it offers an easy way out and a shortcut to avoid the long hours of study needed to achieve good grades.

The nature of exams themselves is a reason for others. “Answers to exam questions usually have to be copied literally from the book, which as a result, lessens inventiveness and encourages copying the answers,” says Alla Mohammed, graduate of a private Sana'a high school.

When asked, “Who's responsible?” students have different points of view. Twelfth-grader Mawadah Sharafudin believes students are under constant pressure, whether from their parents, who punish them, or from their teachers, who threaten to call their parents if they don't pass.

However, surprisingly, some students hold themselves 100 percent responsible. “When my dad pushes me to get good marks, I should study rather than create a way to cheat,” says 11th-grader Hassan Al-Jafari, who still admits to cheating on some occasions. He sometimes cheats using the book or allows fellow classmates to cheat from him because he hates refusing to help a friend.

Amat Al-Karim Abdulkader, principal of the private Yemen Modern School in Sana'a, believes that some teachers and employees clearly participate in the growing phenomenon, pointing out that many teachers overlook the fact that their students cheat. Moreover, “Some teachers deliberately help their students cheat as a way to cover up their failure.”

She believes some students also are raised unaware that cheating is wrong, as certain parents demand high grades regardless of how they are achieved.

“Some parents and teachers are setting a very bad example for our young people,” she warns, “Students are like a blank page on which we grownups write what we want.”

However, Zeyad, a high school Islamics teacher at Yemen Modern School, refuses to accept that some teachers are responsible; rather, he blames students who cheat and their parents, who lack education themselves.