Saturday, February 19, 2011

Paper Tiger Moms?

Every Friday once a month I meet with other faculty working on research projects (as we're not a research-driven school, there aren't many who show!). But one of the faculty, who specializes in teaching international students, is working on a project on plagiarism and Chinese students. We get a lot of Chinese students at our university; I like to say we figured out earlier than most that the one thing left of value to export from America is higher ed.

It ends up that the issue of academic integrity is a perfect storm of a problem in China. First, Chinese culture expects students to show deference to teachers and experts, and what better way to demonstrate expertise than quoting the experts directly? Second, China has weak copyright protection. One of my Chinese students once said that China doesn't believe in copyright protection, but I'm not sure that is entirely true. But it is different in China than in the US. Third, the students are under tremendous pressure to succeed. My colleague told us that several students write about having attempted suicide because of the pressure from their parents to succeed.

My colleague also mentioned that an American college disbanded an MBA program in China because of plagiarism.

And we too have problems with students (well, all kinds of students) who plagiarize, but with Chinese students we have to address cultural differences, not necessarily moral issues. It's a pretty big challenge.

Of course, where I'm going with this is that we should not necessarily see the Chinese educational system as the be-all and end-all.


Amy P said...

There are some interesting academic exchange programs between the US and China, but there's a lot of wariness about Chinese grad school applicants. I've heard the guideline that only applicants who come with a Western academic's stamp of approval should be admitted, because the writing sample could have been written by anybody.

That said, I think the stuff about cultural differences applies more and more to indigenous US students, too. You hear very similar explanations of plagiarism. One of my relatives (a grad student in English) said something about it being a return to pre-modern notions of authorship, where there's no shame in appropriating other people's work.

MH said...

The problem with that is that "other people's work" includes Dan Brown novels.

MH said...

I think the guy in my office from China keeps turning off the coffee pot. It's either him or the new lady. Stupid cultural differences mean that I have to microwave my coffee even 15 minutes after I just brewed a pot.