HEC's plagiarism policy

Sept 29: IT is to be hoped that the Higher Education Commission's policy on plagiarism will have a chastening effect on those it is directed at - teachers, students and researchers who have few qualms about presenting somebody else's work as their own. Varying degrees of penalty, commensurate with the scale of the plagiarism involved, have been prescribed. By having a different set of penalties for students and teachers, the HEC has appropriately linked the scholarly status of an individual to his/her level of awareness of plagiarism as intellectual theft. However, what is open to question is the level of punishment - ranging from major to minor - in the case of teachers and senior researchers. They should be setting a positive example to their students by being above any kind of intellectual dishonesty. Hence the penalty for teachers who plagiarise should have been uniformly tough so that their pupils do not get the message that some irregularities can be condoned. Admittedly, our teachers, for the most part, are products of a corrupt education system where employing dubious means to achieve success is not necessarily frowned upon. But this practice has to be checked especially when the Internet provides unlimited access to published papers and makes plagiarism such an effortless task.

Hopefully this policy will bring about more academic uprightness in higher education institutes. The need is also to address the problem in schools which, after all, lay the foundations of all future academic habits. In our lopsided educational system the tendency of policymakers is to focus on higher education while neglecting school learning. However, all the effort that goes into improving the higher education set-up will produce few dividends if similar attempts are not made to upgrade primary schools. It is in the latter that young minds are moulded to differentiate between right and wrong and to inculcate good study habits. If the teaching is poor at this stage, then things can go wrong later on, especially when students are completing degree programmes to enter the global job market where competition is stiff. For reasons practical and ethical, then, it is important that students are taught the right values from the very beginning and are given clear guidelines on doing independent research. That is the only way they will stay away from dishonest academic practices. Dawn

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