Cheating is not the only option

January somehow slipped by and February is upon us and I have yet to post a blog in 2010. I have been awakened from my blogless slumber by the news that 4,415 students cheated in their GCSE and A level exams last year compared to 4,156 in 2008, an increase of some 6%. There is of course much condemnation and moral indignation that students would stoop so low. “You are only cheating yourself” is the often used expression.

In China the college entrance exams are thought so important that parents don’t simply drop their children off on their way to work, they wait anxiously outside the exam hall whilst they take the exam. More than 10 million students sit these college entrance exams. For many it is life changing, pass and you will go to university, fail and you are destined for a life of manual work. And with families in China only allowed to have one child, that one child carries the hopes and aspirations of the entire family.

Last year in Sanman County in Zhejiang Province some parents persuaded the teacher to fax through the exam questions, after the students had entered the exam hall. These were then answered by some university students and fed through via wireless ear piece to the students sitting the exam. The Chinese authorities took a hard stance and jailed 8 of those involved for between 6 months and 3 years.

So is this increase in cheating a breakdown in the moral fibre of this generation, is it on the increase because new technologies make it so easy or is it simply that the pressure to succeed is so great that students, and parents will do anything, including cheat.

It may have something to do with all three, but I suspect it is mostly the result of exams creating a Gattaca (The movie that portrays a world organised according to genetic talent) type environment where those that have the exam passing gene are accepted and those that don’t feel they have little choice other than to break the rules.

In this country at least we are fortunate in that although failing exams is not the best career move, it is not the end of the world. True you may not get into the school that you wanted, but you will be able to get into another one. And yes you may have to put your life on hold for another year in order to retake an exam, but you can retake it. So cheating is not the only option, with a little self belief and determination, the future can still be what you want it to be, as they say in Gattaca “There is no gene for the human spirit”

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