MALAYSIA Tanah Tumpah Darahku


Tuesday, August 30, 2022

Need for public inquiry on plagiarism in universities


From P Ramasamy

The issue of plagiarism rears its ugly head now and then.

It means copying or lifting or stealing the written works of others and using them as your own without proper referencing.

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There are many variations of plagiarism, or copying in short.

The most blatant ones are lifting the written works of others either in the form of articles or books.

The lesser forms can be the partial lifting of the written materials of others.

Plagiarism can take the form of stealing the ideas of others without the acknowledgement of those behind the ideas.

In a simplistic form, plagiarism essentially means cheating.

Of late, it seems to be rampant in the academic world – in universities and colleges – based on reports in the media.

Plagiarism has become an easy route for students to lift the works of others without proper acknowledgment.

It is not confined to students; academics or lecturers in universities engage in plagiarism for various reasons.

They have the tendency to use the written works of students and others in the respective academic disciplines.

Sometimes, if luck is not on their side, plagiarism can be detected and the perpetrators punished either by suspension or outright dismissals.

In the academic world, where getting degrees and achievements are measured in terms of written works, there is pressure to publish or perish.

I understand that plagiarism is a serious issue, something that authorities in universities might not want to acknowledge.

They just want to avoid the shame of being exposed.

I remember that when I was in a public university some years back, I personally investigated an academic who plagiarised a number of books by simply translating them from English to Malay.

They were not categorised as translations, but the original works of the academic.

They were not complete word for word or sentence for sentence translations, but a disjointed translation, to avoid detection.

The original sources were never acknowledged.

The matter was brought to the attention of the authorities and, in the end, the academic was not sacked but had his promotion frozen.

Subsequently, he resigned to join another public university where he was eventually promoted to a professor.

Plagiarism might not be seen as a life and death matter in other sections of the society as in the case of academic institutions.

Universities, both public and private, take pride in churning out quality graduates so that they can contribute with their talent. But if they plagiarise the works of others, how are they going to contribute?

What kind of talent might they have if they cheat and engage in dishonesty about their achievements?

If they have the predisposition of lifting the works of others to be published in the forms of books or articles, then what contribution is there?

I am not saying that plagiarism is rife among the entire academic community, it might be a problem with a few. However, the few might not be a small number.

Even if one person plagiarises, it can be considered a problem of huge magnitude.

Unfortunately, in Malaysia, as I have said, plagiarism does not get the due attention of the authorities in universities as well as from the education ministry.

I don’t understand why the authorities are reticent about this serious problem that needs to be eradicated at its roots.

The more the authorities are silent about the presence of this problem, the more will be the tendencies to engage in this cheating and dishonest practice.

There has been much discussion about the need for a royal commission of inquiry in matters of corruption and financial scandals.

However, there is hardly any discussion about an RCI to ascertain as to what really ails our universities.

It is not just about plagiarism alone but why our universities are behind when it comes to preparing students for the growing opportunities in the private sector.

The mismatch between university graduates and the demands of the private sector continues to persist with serious implications for the future.

At least let us have an inquiry on plagiarism first, as a start. - FMT

P Ramasamy is Penang deputy chief minister II and a former academic.

The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of MMKtT.

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