PLAGIARISM, which implies using the work, ideas, or expressions of others as if one’s own, is reported to have become epidemic, unfortunately, these days which prompted academics to rightly rue the situation at a programme on academic and research integrity at a private university in Dhaka held on Thursday. It has reached such a pass that even the premier seat of higher learning, the University of Dhaka, is reported to be struggling to purge the process of the malady in cases of students doing their doctoral theses, as discussants said. While one of the discussants suggested that the government should work out a policy to address the issue, another said that the issue of plagiarism has not been covered by any of the laws in Bangladesh and that the government could think of ‘criminalising contractual cheating’ by way of the enactment of a law as the United Kingdom is reported to be thinking. Steps to effectively stop plagiarism are urgently needed, in doctoral degree and other courses in universities, as plagiarism does not only undermine the dignity of the institutions of higher learning but also defeats the purpose of research. Doctoral courses are meant to create knowledge and the purpose is defeated when someone else’s ideas are passed off as one’s own. Knowledge creation stops short.
But can laws and policies alone stop the malady? Perhaps, not. People keep committing crimes despite a large number of laws having been in place. Laws can help to improve on the situation and ensure justice in cases of knowledge fraudulence, but policing cannot effectively end the menace. Discussants at the programme said that plagiarism results from a poverty of ideas, inability to write or being unfamiliar with scholarly writing and referencing works of other people and, even in some cases, ignorance of the students about what constitutes plagiarism. The reasons that the discussants listed to have been playing a role in plagiarism are what the institutions, not just the universities but also colleges and schools, have overlooked in teaching. Moral indoctrination, all through the studentship, would certainly be required so that students stay away from copying from other people’s work and ideas without rephrasing and acknowledging that these are not their works and ideas, but they mostly resort to plagiarising when they cannot readily think critically on their own, write on their own in their own words and reference other people’s works and ideas earlier published. The whole of their academic life is infested with rote learning and thinking how they are taught to think, which naturally results in plagiarism when it is simply deprecated.
Education managers, educationists and educationalists, in such a situation, may work out policies to ensure justice dispensation, although universities have mechanisms for retroactive punishment even by revoking the degrees for academic misconduct, but they must do some soul-searching about the reasons for the situation at hand and the caulk the gaps so that students could think on their own, critically, and write on their own, in their own words, to save the institutions from indignity and to further knowledge creation.
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