January 5th, 2016

Issue of plagiarism in academic work — Azizi Ahmad

This article is published in the Malay Mail Online What You Think 05 January 2016.
Writer: Azizi Ahmad
Institut Pendidikan Guru Kampus Bahasa Antarabangsa Lembah Pantai, Kuala Lumpur

JANUARY 5 — Plagiarism happens for a number of reasons, one is because some students decide consciously to gain credit for the work of others. However, most incidents of plagiarism are the product not of deliberate cheating, but of underdeveloped academic skills.

The term plagiarism, derived from the Latin word “plagiarius” meaning “kidnapper” or “plunderer.” It has has been defined as the practice of using other’s ideas and texts and claiming them as one’s own original authorship without acknowledging the source.

Plagiarism may take various forms. The most serious form of plagiarisms “to obtain and submit as your own paper written by someone else.”

Other forms of plagiarism include doing the copy-and-paste of texts without acknowledging the original authorship, paraphrasing the original ideas of others without referencing them or attributing the citation of a text to a false authorship.

Students plagiarise other’s works and present them as their own because of the said cultural background of the students. Its most obvious reasons are the language and content problems faced by the students. In addition, these problems are compounded with other problems like lack of motivation, desire for a better product, aspiration for higher grades, etc.

Most plagiarised work goes undetected. The invention of modern technology like internet has made plagiarism easier than ever before.

Martin Luther King, Jr, leading figure of Black Rights Movement in the USA, was also charged with plagiarism in his Ph D dissertation, and still today there is a piece of information tagged at this research informing its readers that his dissertation consists of plagiarised work.

Identifying plagiarism in academic papers is a very difficult task. Even technology-equipped software as the like of Copycatch or Turnitin is not feasible in all contexts, particularly in developing countries where the problems of accessibility of computers and internet facilities that are coupled with a large number of students.

Students must bear in mind that their teachers are the experts in the field and know the sources more than their students do. Punishing the students of their plagiarised work sometimes can be counter-productive in the academic field.

Teachers must teach plagiarism to their students not from a punitive approach, but rather by drawing their attention to good writing, and referencing and citation skills. They must bear in mind that there must lie a difference between an original work and a plagiarised work that is rejected in the student’s achievement.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail Online. - See more at: http://www.themalaymailonline.com/what-you-think/article/issue-of-plagiarism-in-academic-work-azizi-ahmad#sthash.uzwoOy4L.dpuf

Looking back at PT3

WHILE students are busy fitting into a new year in schools, I can’t help looking back at last year when my daughter sat for her PT3. The amount of work put in was actually three years’ worth, starting from Form One. This year’s Form Three students will be the third batch to sit for PT3.

I would like to share some feedback on PT3 with hope that the relevant authorities will look into some of the comments and suggestions.

It was reported that the number of straight As’ achievers in 2015 was more than in 2014. What are the reasons for the improvement? The 2015 batch was notified about the PT3 exam when they were in Form Two compared to their seniors who were given short notice. By then, teachers and students were aware of the format of the PT3 questions and had access to a bank of questions from the past year and forecast questions.

However, one cannot stop wondering whether the exam actually brought the best out of the students. The PT3’s examination format is comprised mainly of higher ordered thinking skills (HOTS) with many application type of questions. This requires switching from the traditional mode of teaching to facilitating, where students are encouraged to think on their own and research for answers which might not be in their text books.

Have our teachers been trained and prepared to carry out this mode of facilitation and learning? Today, teachers cannot rely totally on books. They also need technology to enhance the learning process. Is IT infrastructure adequate in all schools? How many schools have fast Internet access and computers for students to Google the World Wide Web for information? Sadly, many schools are struggling to maintain their IT services and not all students have Internet access in their homes.

With regards to HOTS, I believe it should cover only a portion of the PT3 exam. We should not forget to access fundamental knowledge and give it due importance and significance as well.

As HOTS questions require students to think out of the box, the PT3 examination marking scheme should not be too rigid to the answers provided by the Examination Board. How does the answers scheme address creative thinkers whose answers might be correct as well?

For all the subjects, the examination answer scripts are marked by the students’ own teachers. Then there is a committee of teachers who ensures the markings are carried out according to the standard set by the Exami­na­tion Board. How can we be assured that there’s no bias in the marking of the answer scripts since the teachers already know whose script it belongs to? Teachers are human beings and, for whatever reason, some students have a special place in their heart. Unfortunately, we have the opposite case as well. Can schools ensure that each student’s answers scripts will be marked impartially by the teachers so that there is fairness in the markings?

These points should be discussed openly and addressed by the Education Ministry, which should initiate steps to further improve the PT3 exam. Infrastructure need to be placed to support students sitting for PT3, and parents and students need to be confident that the examination is flawless and good enough to have replaced PMR. Concerned Parent Batu Gajah, Perak The STAR Home News Opinion Letters 05 January 2016

Have reading project for teachers

IF there are ways and means to make our English teachers read good English books on their own accord, many of the weaknesses associated with semantics, grammatical structures and other language problems in the classroom would be solved.

Generally, there is a good reason to assume that extensive reading will contribute in a big way to our overall command of the language.

 Individual reading, for instance, is an activity done at our own pleasure, anywhere, at any time of the day. It would be a natural way of exposing ourselves to the language through books, magazines, comics, newspapers or even poetry.

But to me, the best ones will always be the literature books.

A passion for reading will help stimulate teachers’ aesthetic and emotional development.
These allow us to go along imagining, visualising and interpreting freely in our own colourful ways, every single character, action and movement in the story.

It would also have gained us hours of untold pleasure and satisfaction. It would be quite different if we were watching a movie, where everything is lucidly pictured, moving on, leaving very little to the imagination.

 I remember how, years ago, while reading Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the visualisation of the story in my mind had induced such strong, frightening, vivid images that it took me months to finish the book, simply because I had to put it off time and time again, for the horrible fear it evoked in me.

But, there were many other wonderful books, too, by Enid Blyton, Charles Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, Agatha Christie, and a host of other famous authors that gave me days of complete fulfilment.

In fact, in places like Kelantan, reading would be the most logical input for teachers, as unconducive environmental and social factors would naturally limit their exposure to the other skills.

It is also a cheap but effective way of developing our teachers’ language competence as the extensive range of vocabulary they acquire through constant reading helps to improve their speaking and writing skills.

Furthermore, a passion for reading would stimulate the teachers’ aesthetic and emotional development.

The truth is, very few of our English teachers actually read English literature, or English books for that matter. Very few would have gone beyond the basic, prescribed literature textbooks during their training.

 If only we could make our English teachers read, especially those who are weak in the language.  The fact is, every year, our Education Ministry organises numerous courses for English teachers, costing the government millions. But to what avail?

Except for instructional courses, most are feeble attempts at improving our teachers’ performance in the classroom.

Many of these courses are not selective or tailor-made, and proceed under the assumption that all English teachers are equal in language proficiency.

This is a fallacy. Some are extremely good, but many are at the lower end of the scale. By and large, these courses will have very little effect on the weaker ones, who are normally passive participants in any discussion or group activity due to their limited proficiency in the language.

I suggest that besides these courses, we should include a ‘reading project’ for selected groups of English teachers — something along the lines of the flipped classroom model.

For starters, the ministry should provide these teachers with three to four compulsory, standard reading books every year, to be read at their leisure.

The reading project should then be supported by a website for online videos, collaboration, comments and discussions on the books.

To ensure that all the teachers read the books, the project should culminate in a reading course with discussions and a short test.

At the outset, it should be clear that the test is not meant as an instrument for grading the teachers’ proficiency. It is merely there to encourage the reading habit.

It should be an ongoing project with a lifespan of at least two years.

A few years of this with the same teachers, and we should be able to see groups of English teachers who are more proficient and confident in the language.

Admittedly, it would not be an easy task to attract our young English teachers with such a simple and wholesome bait, as most are already addicted to their handphones, laptops, blogs, Twitters and Facebook, but an effort needs to be made by the ministry to persuade them to read.