Take for instance a project on 'tsunami' given in middle school. Most children will search the internet, print a copy of the picture of the raging sea, get a print out of tsunami from the website, paste it and submit it to the teacher.
The teacher will then grade and give the students marks. The student gets encouraged to do this the next time around and gets into the habit of plagiary. What should have been done and what the teachers must insist be done, is that the text be rewritten in the student's own words and proper credit be given to the source from where the idea came from.
In schools, the concept of reproducing verbatim, from text book still exists. Those students who are able to mug the text and reproduce it word for word are given more marks than those others who read the text, make sense of it and then write it out simply in their own words. Since students are encouraged to reproduce word for word from text book, when they go to colleges and universities abroad they so the same. In the western world, this is plagiarism.
Legal action for plagiarism is quite strict. All colleges and schools abroad have very strict rules, since plagiarism affects the image and reputation of the institution. The laws of copyright give the author right for original creation without having to file a patent.
Besides, printed word from a text book, newspaper, magazine or periodical, copyright extents to works of art, painting, music, drama, computer programming etc. Some Universities are so strict that after the first warning, a second instance of plagiarism could lead to expulsion of the student.
Our education system too doesn't allow cheating. However, cheating has a narrow connotation in our context. Copying from another child's notebook, or a scribble pad, or a note is what is cheating and considered actionable.
The book prescribed for the syllabus is actually a copyright material of the author; any reproduction from the book in bits or parts needs a reference to the book. Since our students do not learn this, they end up with plagiary.
There are several ways of avoiding plagiarism. Students must use quotes if they reproduce verbatim, use footnotes, references of the authors for the texts and ideas, they are borrowing.
Just changing the fonts or a word here and there should be avoided and complete re-writing of the central idea should be encouraged right at the school level.
There are several websites which help scan the material for dubious copies. In order to help our students be part of the international students' community, it is important that teachers at schools and colleges first themselves understand the importance of plagiarism and then guide students how to avoid it.
Source | Daily News Analysis | 26 December 2010
Bharat M. Chaudhari
School of Petroleum Management, Gandhinagar