Jumat, 09 Maret 2012

More publication or more fraud?

More publication or more fraud?

In January, the Directorate General of Higher Education (Ditjen Dikti) decided, through a circular, that academic publication is a compulsory requirement for graduation for undergraduate, as well as postgraduate, students.

The reason for this seemingly rash decision is that in terms of academic publication, Indonesia is still left behind by many countries, including Malaysia.

Soon after the issuing of the circular, the pros and cons debate arose regarding the new graduation requirement. Those on the “pros” side believe that the new policy will stimulate the growth of the number of academic publications in the country, whereas the “cons” believe that it is too rash and will put too much burden on students and universities.

Should the new policy really work, academic publications in Indonesia will increase drastically in number but not necessarily in quality. However, if it fails, many students will be forced to spend more time at universities, which also means more costs to their parents. Recently, however, there have been signs that Ditjen Dikti may be willing to give the policy a second thought.

Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh recently stated that one thing to consider about such a policy to boost the quantity of the academic publications is that it may create pressure for more academic fraud (e.g. plagiarism) to occur.

The problem of academic fraud has been seen to occur in universities all over the world in varying degrees. Experts have conducted studies to identify patterns of the occurrence of such fraud.

An interesting finding from the studies is that in countries where fraud is commonplace (e.g. indicated by Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index), the tendency for students in such countries to cheat is higher than in other less fraudulent countries. In the last Corruption Perception Index survey, for example, Indonesia only got a score of three out of 10.

Additionally, a recent PERC survey placed Indonesia as the most corrupt country in the Asia-Pacific, which may offer an explanation as to why academic fraud is also commonplace in this country.

Evidence suggests that the more university students observe fraudulent conduct in their environment, the more they will be able to rationalize their own misconduct.

Studies have also found that students who cheated were more likely to cheat in their professional careers later on.

Simply put, “fraud creates fraud” and “fraudsters create fraudsters”. A vicious circle surrounds this problem. Students, for example, are willing to cheat to accomplish their academic tasks due to, in part, their prolonged exposure to a corrupt environment (e.g. corrupt business practices), which stimulates their ability to rationalize their own misconducts and, later on, may lead them to choosing the path of becoming fraudsters in their professional careers and further contribute to the creation of a corrupt environment for future students.

To overcome this problem, there should be a sound mechanism to diminish the opportunities to commit academic fraud, along with strong sanctions against offenders. Some experts also believe that there should also be initiatives to reduce the means to rationalize academic misconduct. This will create a strong perception among students that cheating of any kind is wrong and must be punishable.

Just as the rationalization for academic misconduct will be carried over to one’s professional career, the same is believed to work on the perception that academic cheating is a serious offense. In other words, honest students will be more likely to be honest professionals.

In the case of Ditjen Dikti’s new policy of compulsory academic publication, it is noteworthy to check if there is already a strong mechanism that will keep our university students from the temptation to cheat in fulfilling such an obligation.

Without it, the policy will only add more problems to our nation’s higher education system. ●