Cheating is a widespread and old practice in teaching and learning environments. The causes of this practice and the motivations of cheaters are multiple. We can also question the learning processes of fraud, what makes it possible and what encourages it. We cannot, of course, exhaust such a subject in a few pages.
There are students who have their homework done, done outside the classroom, by third parties. There are some who engage in plagiarism (especially for those who are more advanced in their studies). During exams, some students cheat or attempt to cheat; this concerns supervised homework and compositions as well as examinations for the passage to college or national diplomas (brevet des colleges and baccalaureate). The techniques of copying and cheating are innumerable and, at times, ingenious. Subject leaks do not only concern baccalaureate exams: it is even done for banal compositions in middle or high school or university exams!
At university, in addition to the frauds used in the school system, a phenomenon is developing strongly with the evolution of technology: plagiarism. This cheating affects both students (for their homework and dissertations) and teachers (for their theses and publications). Ethics is losing more and more ground.
Motivations of cheaters
The overwhelming majority of students cheat to pass their exams or to get the best possible grades. Some do it to satisfy other motivations such as when they want to challenge a strict teacher or the “system”: it is a form of subversion. There are some who cheat just for the pleasure of doing it.
Fraud is sometimes done with the complicity, or even participation, of parents. The school and university success of children flatters the ego of the parents, especially those whose narcissistic offspring are very important. The failure of children in this category of parents is unbearable for them: they prefer the illusion of success to the reality of their children’s level.
Family and social pressures are the main causes of cheating in teaching tests and exams. Family pressures are greater in school education, while social pressures are greater in higher education.
Competition encourages the subject to acquire cheating skills: this can go as far as “no matter what”! In addition to this, the subject develops feelings of selfishness. As the pedagogical methods used in the Algerian educational system aim at instilling a spirit of competition in pupils and students, this is one of the causes of school and university cheating.
Learning to cheat
Students who cheat during their school and university exams are not born cheaters. Cheating is not an innate character, it is a behavior that is acquired. Children, teenagers and young adults learn to cheat by watching adults cheat. The obligation to succeed in their studies creates a “necessity” that compels them to this learning.Since there is no (institutional) training in fraud, they learn by practicing.
Adults, starting with teachers, who become shocked when they see cases of cheating among students, “forget” their past as students. Adults who have never cheated, or tried to cheat, during their schooling are extremely rare.
In social life, often, these moralizing adults cheat daily, everywhere: teachers and other educational supervisors, parents within families, sportsmen and women in different disciplines and competitions, leaders of the country, officials at all levels, men of law (magistrates, policemen and gendarmes), etc.
Not to mention their backgrounds as students, a number of teachers, principals and inspectors access their positions by cheating in recruitment competitions, as is the case in other sectors of the public service. Fraud is committed during the exams or through a nepotism and clientelistic system.
Great athletes cheat during competitions, by faking or doping, in order to win: they show the youth “how” to succeed! Can we blame young people for wanting to imitate these stars? Parents cheat in their social and professional life. They lie, steal, practice corruption: what else can their children learn?
When these young people learn that many of the “models” of social success that are the country’s leaders are rigging elections, embezzling public money, practicing favoritism and nepotism, how can we afford to give them moral lessons?
The designation of the “bribe” with the word “coffee” to adapt it culturally seems to have transformed the illicit into licit since corruption is no longer a moral problem for a significant part of the population. And our youth cannot be insensitive to this practice: they see and hear.
What facilitates, or encourages, cheating
Students live in an environment that is conducive to cheating, which tends to become a “skill” valued by many. The overwhelming majority of our youth no longer go to school and university to learn and grow: good grades and diplomas (obtained at any price) are enough for them! The offer of our educational institutions in terms of knowledge, learning and culture does not meet the expectations of children, adolescents and young adults.
The systems that are put in place to evaluate students, especially the most outstanding ones such as the baccalaureate, awaken in a certain number of students an “awareness” to fraud. Examination centers turn into bunkers, teachers into policemen and student candidates into potential cheaters. Mobilizing tens of thousands of gendarmes and police officers to organize the baccalaureate exams can only be a one-off, temporary solution; it cannot be sustained over the long term.
Methods to fight cheating
This is the example that is the first strength of education. Adults must set an example for youth by behaving honestly in their family, social and professional life. “Do what I tell you, not what I do” is an aberration in education.
Moralizing speeches are not effective. Prohibitions (made, in particular, by non-credible people) and sanctions have never solved this problem. Laws and devices made to fight delinquency and crime make it possible to put delinquents and criminals out of harm’s way but are insufficient to eradicate these antisocial phenomena. Threats of sanctions and punishments, no matter how severe, do not deter all would-be delinquents and criminals from committing their crimes. Only education and raising the cultural level can substantially reduce delinquency and crime.
People go to school and university to learn, to cultivate themselves, to develop their communication skills, to learn how to think and analyze, to train themselves to exercise citizenship with a critical and constructive spirit. These spaces must not continue to issue diplomas that often sanction illusions of knowledge and bits of culture. To bring about this transformation, the education system must evolve pedagogically. Transmissive pedagogies, alienating and based on competition, must give way to truly active pedagogies that instill the spirit of cooperation, develop the spirit of analysis, and allow the subject to acquire real skills and knowledge. Teachers will have to be trained in methods that will make these young people want to learn, cultivate and train themselves. It will require modern teaching tools and contents that will interest and motivate the pupils and students. It will thus be possible to set up evaluation methods that will drastically reduce cheating and avoid its consequences at the same time.