Countering plagiarism

July, 23: ACADEMIC plagiarism is on the rise in Pakistan. It is rampant not only among students but also teachers as exemplified by the recent case of five faculty members at Punjab University who escaped severe penalties on account of the absence of legislation in this regard. Fortunately, the Higher Education Commission is set to come out with a policy next month that would recommend stringent punishment for plagiarists, including the termination of their services. While those who copy others' academic work and present it as their own deserve no less, it is important that the HEC ensures that there are qualified teachers to replace them so that the studies in a particular university department are not affected and students do not suffer from the absence of teachers. The issue of academic plagiarism must also be viewed in its entirety. The seeds of this scourge are sown much before the stage of higher education is reached. In an intellectually impoverished society such as ours, access to the Internet has provided students and teachers alike with a ready means to copy ideas and essays of others and present them as their own. The ability to think for oneself, to question and to form logical conclusions is thus lost.

Educational authorities must realise this and work towards inculcating sound values from the early stages. Admittedly, it would be difficult - and impractical in the age of globalisation - to discourage the use of the Internet. But students and teachers must be made to see this as a tool of acquiring knowledge, rather than as a means of plagiarism. To this must be added efforts to root out cheating and other academic irregularities which are widespread. Tackling academic deceit at the lower level would mean fewer cases of plagiarism later on. It would also lead to academic honesty among teachers who, after all, have a crucial role to play in the educational upbringing of their students. Dawn

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