People cheating on test by wrote answer on piece of paper
People cheating on test by wrote answer on piece of paper

Academic Dishonesty: Reasons Why Students Cheat - Part 2

Academic dishonesty can be found in any school and the reasons for its existence are many and diverse, for both students and educators.

Best Practices April 22, 2021

Findings adapted from Robert Kennedy and Hicks Crawford suggest the following reasons for cheating: 1) Everybody does it: students think that it is acceptable; 2) Unrealistic academic demands: too many assignments to accomplish within a short timeframe; 3) Ambition: most students who cheat are too ambitious and have great visions for their future only achievable with good grades; 4) Ruthless competition: especially among boys being brought up in the “dog-eat-dog” spirit they impose in the entire classroom environment; 5) Not afraid of the punishment; and 6) Not understanding lectures.

While multiple reasons exist that justify the cheating behavior and may vary depending on location, cheating is bad regardless of the reason. When students graduate with degrees they cannot defend, they find themselves ill-prepared for the job they are hired to do; they are half-baked (Sapa, 2014).  However, students are not the only ones to blame. At the classroom level, consciously or not, educators have even a greater role to play. Unfortunately they play it differently because they understand it differently. For some, cheating may be a surprise while for others, especially those who are products of the same system, it is not. Thus, when there is no common understanding of a problem it is hard, if not impossible, to solve it.

Outside the classroom, the “race-to-earn” a higher grade which encourages many bad behaviors among students tempts faculty and staff to falsify or forge academic credentials. Many options are open that weaken students’ efforts to genuinely study to earn their grades: 1) some teachers in high school and higher education allocate grades in exchange of a fee or sex (Epstein, 1981); 2) academic documents are sold to students who do not want to spend time in school and endure all that it takes to honestly earn a well-deserved degree; 3) regular schools are “converted” into drive-through education service providers whereby a student goes to school when he/she wants or has time but whose above-average grade, nevertheless, is guaranteed; and 4) school administrators are bold enough to tell teachers that a “B” grade is the acceptable minimum grade regardless of students performance. Such educators focus more on money-making than imparting knowledge and promoting good character. They are negligent and engaged in malpractice with no moral ground to correct and ethically guide students; they are setting bad examples. If an educator is not honest how can he/she enforce honesty?

On the other hand, educators are not the only role models students look up to. As McCabe observes, “almost daily, the media give big play to all kinds of cheating carried out by adults in positions of authority: politicians, lawyers, business people, clergy…”(2020). In spite of this, educators need to assure students that there are also many honest, loyal, moral, and ethical people and encourage them to conduct themselves well in order to avoid making such bad headlines.


Athanase Rutebuka

Rutebuka has a PhD in Educational Administration and Supervision – Andrews University. He served as Interim President of Ethiopia Adventist College (2013-2015), Africa. Associate Professor; currently serving as Head of the Department of Management. Is author of "School Violence and Unspoken Messages to Children: The Remedy Is In Your Hands" (2001) and "My Story" (2010), a book that tells the story of a church established and developed under difficult circumstances.

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