Why Many International Students Get a Failing Grade in Academic Integrity

James Bradshaw and Tamara Baluja, Globe and Mail, September 2, 2011

University students break the rules for a host of reasons–some make a bad decision under pressure at 3 a.m., others insist they were just helping a classmate. But at some Canadian schools, an alarming number of the accused share one characteristic: they came from abroad to study here.

The disproportionate number of international students accused of plagiarism or cheating on exams is raising red flags in university administrations and legal aid offices. It also raises questions as to whether schools should be doing more for stressed-out foreign students who are grappling with new educational standards, often while coping with a language barrier.

With governments and universities across Canada increasing their efforts to recruit more students from abroad, and some opening branch campuses abroad, there is a growing desire to understand why so many new arrivals are getting a failing grade in academic integrity.

Most Canadian universities do not track academic offences by a student’s country of origin, which makes definitive measures of the problem difficult. But those on the front lines of the universities’ support services and legal aid clinics are certain that a significantly higher proportion of international students are getting in trouble.

The imbalance is striking at Downtown Legal Services, the University of Toronto legal aid clinic that assists students charged with academic offences, said staff lawyer Karen Bellinger.

“I would say, anecdotally, that well over 50 per cent of [clients] are international students,” she said. This group makes up about 12 per cent of the total student body at U of T.

After perceiving a similar trend, the University of Windsor began keeping track three years ago. A 2008-2009 report from Academic Integrity Officer Danielle Istl shows one in 82 international students was accused of academic misconduct, compared with one in 300 domestic students. Both numbers decreased the next year, but the percentage of international students accused was still more than three times higher.

International students facing discipline most commonly say they were reared in drastically different learning styles, burdened with expectations from families that have invested heavily in them, or lacked the confidence to shape and convey ideas in English. Some cheat for the same reasons as anyone–a lack of understanding or attention to what is allowed, especially in grey areas like group work, or a desire to boost flagging marks–but schools increasingly realize cultural barriers can put them at greater risk of academic dishonesty, intentional or not.

Karan, who did not want his last name published, is a recent international graduate of U of T’s Faculty of Arts and Science, and admits he was let off with a warning over apparent plagiarism after copying text from lecture slides word-for-word in a paper. In India, he had relied on reproducing the words of his teachers and rote learning to succeed in India, and was taken aback by the emphasis placed on critical analysis and proper citation of sources in Canada.

“Basically [the professor] said I didn’t cite at all,” said Karan. “Back home, we listen to our teachers, and basically mug everything they say. The more you write your answers exactly the way they say it, the better chance you have of getting an A.”

Then there’s the weight of expectations carried by many students who have crossed continents and oceans to study, paying high international fees.

“I think most students don’t plan on cheating . . . it just happens,” Karan said. “Often times, parents back home will be spending a lot of money to send you abroad, and the hope is that with this Canadian degree, you will get a better job back home or sponsor your parents to move.”

A 2006 study published by the Higher Education Academy in the U.K. found that more than 60 per cent of the international students surveyed, particularly those from some Asian countries, believed that failure to use the same wording as a teacher or “authority figure” in an assignment would be the same as criticizing them. It found these students are not “persistent plagiarizers” but suggested it was easier to detect plagiarism in their work than in the work of native English speakers.

Most universities consider any presentation of another person’s words or ideas as one’s own without crediting the original source to be plagiarism.

After arriving at U of T from Taiwan, Hannah Liu found she and her friends often felt they lacked the vocabulary and writing skills to be confident paraphrasing research material.

“If [students] don’t know how to rewrite the sentence, they probably think, ‘I’ll just copy and paste it,'” she said.

Niraj Maharaj encounters this explanation often in his role as Student Rights and Support Services Co-ordinator at the York Federation of Students despite York University’s mandatory English proficiency test for students educated in another language.

“A number of students have mentioned that the test doesn’t really register what a university-level essay would look like,” focusing instead on basic grammar and sentence structure, Mr. Maharaj said.

Virtually all universities have writing tutorial services, but they tend to be voluntary, and many students don’t take advantage of them until they run into trouble.

“The services can be there, but some people don’t have the courage [to ask for help], or it could be an issue of pride,” said Kevin Williams, a Carleton University student from St. Lucia who sought tutoring when his first paper was deemed “on the borderline” of academic honesty.

McGill University’s Legal Information Clinic is drafting a report for the university administration. At U of T, Ms. Bellinger said she has raised the alarming numbers with the Governing Council, and its Anti-Racism and Cultural Diversity Office is also aware. But a U of T spokesperson said, “to the best of our knowledge” Downtown Legal Services has not referred the issue to either body, and the university does not plan to track academic offences by country of origin.

Instead, it has initiatives intended to guide all students–from embedding advisers in colleges to holding workshops to train faculty and instructors. Still, Ms. Bellinger feels most students’ training “isn’t that extensive.”

Many schools, such as Windsor, have special orientation for international students, but there is a growing push to extend informational programs later into the first term, when students are less “caught up in getting their lives in order,” said Rose Faddoul, counsel at the University of Windsor’s Community Legal Aid.

And Windsor may also copy a measure other schools like Concordia University already use: a short, online academic integrity quiz every student takes when registering for courses.

“There’s lots we can do,” Ms. Istl said. “The challenge, though, is time and resources.”

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  • Anonymous

    I have worked with urban black and latino students for seven years now. In my direct experience and observation, 99.9% of them cheat, and feel nothing bad about it, even going so far as to copy answers in front of you!

    They have no conception that cheating is bad or that it can be a detriment to you. Most teachers I know complain about it, joke about and even get unnerved about it, but we all learn real quick to shut up about it, lest we be accused of racism or of being a ‘bad teacher.’

    Admins back up the students. The parents disbelieve the teachers, and these urban ‘youffs’ are the best liars I have ever seen. Hands down.

  • Question Diversity

    The disproportionate number of international students accused of plagiarism or cheating on exams is raising red flags in university administrations and legal aid offices. It also raises questions as to whether schools should be doing more for stressed-out foreign students…

    Do non-English languages not have words or phrases to describe the concepts of cheating or plagiarism? Are people whose native tongues are not English who are supposedly college-worthy not expected to grok the wrong-headedness of cheating and plagiarism before they get to Canada?

    In India, he had relied on reproducing the words of his teachers and rote learning to succeed in India, and was taken aback by the emphasis placed on critical analysis and proper citation of sources in Canada.

    Sure, because India is the only country in the world whose elementary, intermediate and secondary education systems lean heavily on rote.

  • Dutchman

    Where to start? We poor ignorant and incapable Whites have been told over and over how we need these geniuses from overseas in order to remain competitive (it is never explained how we were competitive when the universities consisted of 100% White men). Now it turns out they engage in massive cheating and plagiarism to get their advanced degrees. This story is from the People’s Republic of Canuckistan so we all know that the situation in the States has to be even worse.

    This part is telling:”In India, he had relied on reproducing the words of his teachers and rote learning to succeed in India, and was taken aback by the emphasis placed on critical analysis and proper citation of sources in Canada.”

  • Hirsch

    But we all already know: If Hollywood decides to make a movie about a cheating scandal, the culprit will be a young, WASP-ish white male who cheats off the courageous and brilliant black female student from Ghana. The test proctor, played by Morgan Freeman with his stately gray shock of hair, will give a withering speech (a la his Mandela in “Invictus”) urging the cheater to come forward. I smell an Oscar somewhere in here.

  • Dutchman

    It is also the case that cheating from alien interlopers is not restricted to academia. The US loses billions each year to fraud-medicare, medicaid, social security, insurance, EBT…. have a look at the cases and you will see that the vast and disproportionate suspects are Indian, African, Chinese, Pakistani, etc. Cheating is part of the cultural baggage.

    At my local grocery store I often come upon recent arrivals still dressed in native garb swiping their EBT cards. It must be like Manna from Heaven to live at the expense of the dispised Whites.

  • Anonymous

    When they say “domestic students” and “native born students” they dont mean white people. Whites are a minority in Toronto and even more so at U of T.

  • white advocate – Canada

    Canada’s immigration policy puts emphasis on foreign trained professionals. It’s supposed to be a great benefit to bring in these job skills, and yet these people have difficulty finding jobs in their profession. We have many special programs to get them into jobs. It is almost considered a type of racism that they can’t work in their fields. Judging from the behavior of these international students, I think we can say they just aren’t as good as Canadians.

    We are having a provincial election in Ontario. The Liberal party is promising a grant program to give employers money to hire foreign trained people instead of Canadians. I kid you not.

  • White Guy In Japan

    A lot of us English teachers in Asia have seen this with our students. An emphasis on dialogue memorization, rote learning plus a collective culture that promotes groupthink is the norm here. The students are not really encouraged to engage in deep processing which entails reworking the material and presenting in their own words. They typically just repeat what they heard from the teacher or maybe another student.

    Thus, copy and paste jobs become quite common. My students often just ask the kid next to him for the answers. My friends in China see this all the time. They try to explain why this is wrong in the classroom and are usually met with blank stares or giggles from the students. Silly Western ideas.

  • Anonymous

    It also raises questions as to whether schools should be doing more for stressed-out foreign students who are grappling with new educational standards, often while coping with a language barrier.

    Yes, those terrible awful white Canadians really MUST stop running around all those foreign countries with their big butterfly nets, trapping unsuspecting Third Worlders and then shipping them off to study at Canadian universities. After all, it’s not like these “stressed-out foreign students” ever ASKED to go to Canada. It’s not their fault they couldn’t outrun the Canadian recruiters with the butterfly nets.

  • Tab Numlock

    3rd world people believe in the magic of objects, as if the Scarecrow’s diploma really did make him smarter.

  • Anonymous

    I teach a science discipline at a university in Canada. Many (but not all) International students, especially those from China, will cheat whenever they are given the opportunity. So we work hard to make sure they don’t get a chance to cheat. They honestly don’t think there is anything wrong with cheating. They just don’t understand it is wrong, and they seem to feel no shame about it at all. That is the way things are in their culture.

    Most of the international students come from countries where corruption is an every day part of life. Their world views are not going to suddenly change just because they are in Canada. It is probably impossible for them to change. All we can do is take every precaution we can to stop them from cheating. But we can’t make them understand it is wrong.

    I worry that immigrants will change the culture in the west forever and our country will become as corrupt as places like China.

    The Chinese immigrants are generally non-violent and intelligent, but they do not have the same integrity built into their world view as most westerners have.

  • Mr.White

    “Instead, it has initiatives intended to guide all students—from embedding advisers in colleges to holding workshops to train faculty and instructors. Still, Ms. Bellinger feels most students’ training “isn’t that extensive.”

    ——————————————————-

    And what might such “workshops” to train faculty and instructors include in their curriculum I wonder? How to spot plagiarism by international students, who are statistically more likely to cheat because of incompatible cultural differences.

    Or

    How to be more culturally sensitive and compassionate to international students, who may feel pressured and overwhelmed by language barriers (as well as an insensitive host culture) and thus, compelled to cheat.

  • Anonymous

    Yeah, the EXCUSES being made for the third world cheaters are pretty funny.

    And irrelevant.

    They cheat more because they come from “societies” that are by Anglo Saxon standards, far less civilized. This is of course an individual phenomenon also: their brains are developed differently, ergo, their societies develop differently. A sharp twelve year-old could reason that one out, though a Marxist- indoctrinated forty year-old psych. professor could subvert logic, suppress innate wisdom, and deny it…

    Anglo- saxons share a much stronger moral code regarding unity and mutual trust.

    (Though in recent decades it has broken down severely, I say this is largely because of having nations that are huge by all comparison to history. Thus, there is less responsibility. There is less accountability in a sea of hundreds of millions.

    There is less tangible and even credible connection between a clerk at Wal -Mart and a Wall Street stockbroker. We have witnessed the wholesale, decades-long erosion of even WHITE morality , because whites have become justifiably cynical.)

    It is perhaps more than mere coincidence that this massive breakdown in WHITE trust and civic honor has occurred at EXACTLY the time when our nations have been inundated, virtually DROWNED by third world hordes. (If you think the word “horde” is too dramatic, consider that the brown invasion of white lands dwarfs all the combined military conquests in the history of the world. The scope, viewed in those terms, is breathtaking).

    None the less; the third world NEVER had such values as the West had , and still has, albeit in a decaying state. Even as decadent as we are, third worlders make us look like paragons of virtue.

    Which is a fair estimate.

  • Anonymous

    This part is telling:”In India, he had relied on reproducing the words of his teachers and rote learning to succeed in India, and was taken aback by the emphasis placed on critical analysis and proper citation of sources in Canada.”

    Exactly the way they program computers. By copying and pasting from creative people.

  • Anonymous

    Does anyone believe that Barack Obama earned his degrees?

    It has been fairly well established that Martin Luther King plagiarized his doctoral thesis, but America has foolishly promoted him as a civil rights hero. Questioning his accomplishments, notwithstanding the actual facts, is treated as politically incorrect thought crimes.

    When social engineering failed, the liberals simply began issuing minorities counterfeit degrees and these diplomas have been used to position affirmative action types in positions far above their competency.

  • Todd

    When I worked at GE as a Engineering technician , we had “engineers ” from India and they had no integrity when it came to testing the new products , they would change the testing procedures in the middle of testing to get the correct results.

  • GW

    Notice all the foreign students came from East Asia and India. John Chesterton from England or Kyle Wills from Australia don’t seem to be the problem students. It is the Zhou Pengs and Ishmu Babalashidins of world that come in with a different ethos.

    “After arriving at U of T from Taiwan, Hannah Liu found she and her friends often felt they lacked the vocabulary and writing skills to be confident paraphrasing research material”

    But of course denying an Asian entrance into a Western university because she isn’t proficient in English would be discrimination. If western universities, primarily the more elite ones, began to require a stricter mastery of the English language from non-native speakers, those wanting to study here would realize they need more than 2 years of English classes back home. This would benefit everyone–foreign students would be less prevalent, the ones that are here would be more Americanized, etc. But of course diversity is a strength so maybe cheating due to cultural differences is a good thing.

  • Iron Helm

    I know you are out there Sureesh, have anything to say do you? Regardless of how supposedly intelligent Indians are, these are not characteristics I want replicated in my country.

  • cpascal

    @ #15

    I don’t believe that Obama earned his degrees, and for one reason. He’s gone through just as much trouble to keep his academic records sealed as he has to hide his birth certificate.

  • Anonymous

    Just a couple of observations here.

    When I worked in the pharmaceutical industry I went to a site that had an Indian doctor and staff. I was there only once. About a week after that visit I received a phone call from the doctor asking me if I wanted to invest $10,000 in some business venture. I barely knew him!

    In my physics courses in college we had these classes (can’t remember what they called them) where we would go over homework problems. The “instructor” was invariably Asian, usually Chinese. What was interesting is that he would go through the solution and we would all be sitting there looking puzzled. The point is that we would all come to the same answer, but he took a different route. Asians think differently than we do.

  • BAW

    You can scarcely read or watch the news without hearing about the rise of China and India.

    Behind that rise is a great deal of expediency, from cheating on tests to Tiger Moms to currency manipulation to blatant disregard for environmental, health, and safety concerns to intellectual property infringement to selling contaminated dog food and toothpaste.

    The English-speaking world is rooted in traditions of fair play that makes this expediency so disturbing.

    Perhaps this rise will become a fall…either for them as their expediency catches up to them, or for us, as we can’t keep up and aren’t willing to be expedient…which will it be?

  • Anonymous

    In the software industry the cheating by H-1B Indians is incredible. They often are completely incompetent and have 1 good worker doing the work of 20 others who sit around and pretend to work. they also have pretend degrees or 3 yr degrees (which don’t qualify for the visa) bodyshop around (illegal) and basically cheat up a storm on every aspect you can possibly imagine. The one thing I learned. Never ever trust a Indian.

  • rjp

    — cpascal wrote at 3:06 PM on September 10:

    I don’t believe that Obama earned his degrees, and for one reason. He’s gone through just as much trouble to keep his academic records sealed as he has to hide his birth certificate.

    He passed the bar, his wife couldn’t. So for that reason I think he probably did graduaute. I think he was probably a very mediorce student at best, given his position on the Law Review via Affirmative Action.

  • Immigrant

    Great.

    I’m a foreign student in Canada and have to I’m pleased that this is happening. I really respect Americans and how they lay down the law, but Canada is over run with leftists that don’t enforce laws or standards for anything. Banana republic. Why should I maintain my A- average when all the others get an A average and the scholarships through immoral means? It’s wrong obviously, but I need to keep the lights on in my apartment. Goodbye morals, hello A+ scholarship.

    Until University admin get their acts together, it’s never gonna change. It’s like the Carlos Mencia song Dee Dee Dee http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_2QPrOwk6RI

  • Anonymoose

    Not only do some cultures have no concept of cheating and “fair play”. The have little concept of the idea of bias either. Making a shop by intention all Indian or all Chinese even when native born workers are available is an acceptable practice in their minds. But illegal in the United States and other Western countries.

    The responsibility still primarily lies with the companies that hire these foreign workers. The government fails to make them seriously search for American workers, and they do not do so on their own. Native born workers face an insuperable burden in seeking work as programmers and engineers. Openings are not properly advertised. Foreign workers can easily misrepresent their qualifications and experience, while American workers even with closely transferable skills are not considered. And American workers willing to work for the “foreign” wage or salary are distrusted as applicants. This is one more swamp that needs to be drained.

  • Anonymous

    Every once in a while there is an article in the papers about an asian,usually Chinese who has been taking college math classes under another name.

    A Chinese woman or man who has already taken the math class and received an A will sign up under the name of a Chinese of the same gender who can’t be bothered to take the class. What usually happens is after the same person has appeared in the same class taught by the same instructor 3 or 4 times the instructor finally realizes what is going on.

    Those TOEFL, (english competency) tests are useless. They just pay someone to take them. When they enroll in classes here in America it is blatantly obvious that they know little English, certainly not enough to pass the test. Passing TOEFL is a basic requirement to obtaining a student visa.

    Passing TOEFL doesn’t matter anyway. The State Department employees who pass out the visas are not American foreign service officers. They are corrupt locals who give them to anyone who is either a relative or pays a bribe.

  • Anonymous

    18 — Iron Helm wrote at 1:20 PM on September 10:

    I know you are out there Sureesh, have anything to say do you? Regardless of how supposedly intelligent Indians are, these are not characteristics I want replicated in my country.

    —————————————————-

    Looks like Sureesh is just a drive-by poster. He just likes to get some jabs in at Whitey. He never answers to articles like this one, since it tells how UN-smart his people really are.

  • Anonymous

    Sureesh, I am disappointed. This is a prime article for you to comment on. How can we take you serious if you tuck tail the moment your people do not come out smelling like a rose.

  • Anonymous

    I’m a White American man. I have a computer programming degree. I never got even 1 job interview.

    But I do make about $9,000 per year writing liberal arts GE requirement term papers for asians, indians, arabs and other non White foreign and immigrant students. It’s all cash too.

    Go with the flow. Our goverment forbids hiring White American males. We have to make a living someway.

  • Mr.White

    23 — rjp wrote at 1:28 AM on September 11:

    — cpascal wrote at 3:06 PM on September 10:

    I don’t believe that Obama earned his degrees, and for one reason. He’s gone through just as much trouble to keep his academic records sealed as he has to hide his birth certificate.

    “He passed the bar, his wife couldn’t. So for that reason I think he probably did graduaute. I think he was probably a very mediorce student at best, given his position on the Law Review via Affirmative Action.”

    ————————————————————-

    I’ve always wondered how someone could “graduate” from an Ivy League law school and not pass the bar exam in their respective state where they intend to pratice.

    Of course, who needs to practice law when you can get some $300,000 a year gig as a hospital administrator, where you show up to work when you feel like it.

    Must be nice….

  • Sureesh Substitute

    I see comments asking for Sureesh to respond… as an Indian in the US, I’ll speak my mind on this topic.

    There are many reasons as to why India is such a hell hole and this is one of them. Hence we do whatever we can to live in the west, if you have only one life to live and in my shoes, where would you want to live?

    All I can say don’t trust any Indian who has not been Americanized (or I may go far enough to include those not even born here), they do not understand what ethics mean. And this is coming from an Indian!

  • Anonymous

    I am waiting for that Asian supremacist Dr. Rushton to comment on this.

  • Corporate Slave

    Poster 25 — Anonymoose

    When you say that “The responsibility still primarily lies with the companies that hire these foreign workers”, it won’t fly because the old guard has changed hands. The ones who sold their people down the river have been ousted by the new guard.

    Why do you think the openings are not properly advertised? Because the ‘management’ is also Chinese or Indian or [insert other]. The middle layer of management has changed in large swathes, and this trend is creeping upwards in the management echelons. And they hire their own trust me. Literally, they will hire their own friends, family or neighbors from their native places with complete disregard for corporate policies. I’ve seen it happen far too many times.

    As far as misrepresentation of qualifications and experience, everybody does it, including Americans. It’s become standard practice for people to be brazen about bending the truth.

  • Anonymous

    “Literally, they will hire their own friends, family or neighbors from their native places with complete disregard for corporate policies.”

    Same thing in medicine. Filipino nursing schools also have a management internship included in the course. They spend a year as managers of a neighborhood health clinic. I don’t know of any other country that has this.

    It really gives the Filippino nurses an edge. They are the only 24 year old nurses in the world who can honestly put on their resume that they have 1 year’s experience managing a neighborhood health clinic.

    So it is very easy for then to be quickly promoted into management positions when the go to other countries. In the US of course, they have affirmative action status.

    As soon as they become managers they hire only from their families, hometowns, nursing schools. it is all favoritism.

    Our goverment mandates that we have to hire non Whites and immigrants. But the non Whites and immigrants are perfectly free to discriminate hire only their friends and relatives.

    There are many nursing homes where every nurse and therapist is Filippino and every nurse’s aide is hispanic. Affirmative action and quotas are totally ignored when it is non Whites doing the discrimination.