In comparing Chinese and American universities, one of the biggest differences I’ve encountered is plagiarism.
In America, it’s drilled into our heads to ‘cite the source’ and to ‘give credit to the author’ because it ‘only strengthens your argument’ (Every teacher I’ve ever had, 1994-2011). The freshers in college do have some issues with citations, and the occasional case of plagiarizing comes up in classes, but I’ve personally never experienced a student knowingly omit a source in America. It’s widely publicized that’s grounds for expulsion. From college. Which, like, never happens unless it’s a really big deal.
My most fantastic encounter with plagiarism in China came about after I assigned the Oral English II class their final presentation. Their final is to discuss a topic of their choice for 3-5 minutes. Last week their topics and outlines were due. They turned in their papers and I read them and we discussed them one-on-one. Out of the 14 students, I would assume 11 of their outlines to be straight off the internet. Of the 11, I know for sure 3 were straight off the internet. I assume they were copied because the papers had no grammatical errors and were using complicated sentence structures. I could tell the ones who translated their outlines themselves because they were full of common grammatical mistakes and words spelled like they’re pronounced.
I knew 3 were copied because two of them were exactly the same.
The third paper was turned in by a student who never speaks in class. I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt; maybe his written English is better than his spoken English. I read his outline (which included the word ‘esoteric’) and marked it up and gave it back. I told him what he needed to fix (including identifying the source) and asked him if he understood. That got me a blank look. I asked again, and the blank look continued. One of the other students leaned forward and said, ‘ Laoshi #teacher, he cannot speak English.’ Cue frustration. Obvs if you don’t understand the phrase ‘do you understand’ you don’t understand the word ‘esoteric.’
I feel some sympathy for these students #aswellasfrustration. I discussed the rampant plagiarism with my Canadian friends who teach at a high school, and they have the same problems. One mentioned the fact that they don’t have copyright laws in China, so everybody technically shares all the information #andcangetanymovieonline, so maybe they don’t see citing as necessary.
I also see fault in the Chinese education system. The focus is so narrow #testscores that students feel immense pressure to do well in school at any cost. Learning may or may not be an outcome of school, but good grades better be. For many of them, their entire futures are riding on their grades. Cheating #inourterms, then, is worth it to them.
Here’s hoping they understood the 9000 times I said ‘CITE’ #andtheChinesewordforcite last week.