Cheating has existed ever since exams have been in existence. However, the prevalence or cheating and the methods used by students have changed over time. A recent survey of high school students shows that most of them have cheated at least once in their lifetime. While the internet and rapid developments in technology have been blamed for increased cheating, a case study analysis shows that competition is the main reason students cheat. This situation presents a serious problem to educators as people begin to question the effectiveness of taking tests.
Prior to the advent of the internet and smartphones, students had fairly analogue methods of cheating during exams such as looking at their classmates paper, writing cliff notes, storing speeches in their IPod, and storing notes in their graphing calculators. However, with the rapid developments in technology, educators can no longer keep up with students cheating activities as some utilize ingenious methods. The internet in particular provides a wealth of information while also allowing instant messaging with people outside of the exam room.
The rise of the internet has facilitated more advanced forms of exam cheating by making access to information easier and faster. Today, students can text their peers outside the exam or seated in front of a computer who then research information on the internet and send it back to the students. However, while the internet has facilitated plagiarism, the main culprit in the increased exam cheating is the current capitalistic society of unceasing competition. As Vencat, Overdort, & Adams (2006) conclude, as the work force becomes more competitive and more college graduates enter the market, education is seen as the best way to success. Therefore, cheating in exams serves to give students a competitive edge in the job market. Additionally, procrastination is a common problem among students where they wait until the last minute to perform education related tasks such as completing homework or studying for an exam which only influences the students to find easier ways of achieving the same results as those who completed their studies faithfully.
Kantian Ethics on Exam Cheating
Kantian ethics is a deontological ethical theory based on the view that the rightness or wrongness of an action is based on the moral laws behind it thereby making good will as the only intrinsically good thing. Central to this theorem is what Kant calls the categorical imperative that applies the moral principles to all people regardless of their desires or interests (Wood, 2007). The categorical imperative has several formulations with the major one being the principle of universalizability According to this principle, when performing an action based on a maxim, an individual should be willing to make it the case that all people always act on that maxim when placed in similar situations (Wood, 2007). In considering cheating, a student should ask themselves what would happen if all the other students were placed in similar situations and made the same decision to cheat to gain a competitive edge over their peers. However, applying these principles to exam situations shows that it is unethical. If one person cheats and the maxim is applied to everyone else, then tests would be abolished since they would no longer be effective in testing student comprehension of course material.
Islamic Perspective on Exam Cheating
Islam is a religion of moral, ethics, and values which does not allow cheating in any aspect of life. The prophet Muhammad mentions in the hadith that He who cheats is no longer one of us (Ali, 2011). Therefore, anyone participating in any form of cheating plus their accomplices commit a sin in the eyes of Islam. Cheating in an exam can also be seen as an attack on truth by propagating falsehood and denying people their due rights. In an exam room, students who cheat falsify their extent of mastery over the course content and get more marks than those who put in the time and effort to study. Additionally, when these candidates enter the job market, they are woefully underqualified to handle the demands of the job market leading to low productivity and economic inefficiency. Therefore, Islam classifies this kind of behavior as haram including the salary gained through fraudulent actions. The Quran implicitly states think not that those who exult in what they have been given, and love to be praised for what they have done, a painful doom is theirs (Ali, 2011). Based on the above Islamic teachings, it is clear that exam cheating in Islam is strictly prohibited making it the duty of Islamic situations to avoid all forms of dishonesty.
While cheating has increased, educators have also implemented countermeasures designed to curb cheating incident. For example, in the UK, the Joint Information Systems Committee provides funding for the popular TrunitinUK service that checks student submissions for plagiarism (Hibbert, 2005). Additionally, some governments such as those in China and Korea have implemented harsh prison sentences for exam cheaters. However, the most effective way to curb cheating would be to increase awareness from an early age about the dangers of cheating in exams thus creating an environment where cheating is not acceptable.
Based on the case study analysis above, it is clear that cheating is unethical based on both moral and religious maxims. Kants categorical imperative make it impossible to apply the cheating maxim to all students as it would make taking tests illogical. Additionally, the Islamic perspective prohibits teaching as unethical as it denies people of their rights while also reducing job productivity. Therefore, as technology develops, educators and governments must implement effective countermeasures to sustain the morality of the youth.
Ali, M. M. (2011). Holy Quran. Ahmadiyya Anjuman Ishaat Islam Lahore USA.
Hibbert, L. (2005). Catch the cheats. Professional Engineering, 18(9), 22-23.
Vencat, E. F., Overdorf, J., & Adams, J. (2006). The perfect score.NEWSWEEK-INTERNATIONAL EDITION-, 2006, 44.
Wood, A. W. (2007). Kantian ethics. Cambridge University Press.
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