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Academic Writing, IIIA
May 26, 2007
To: Dr. Sean Hartigan
Can anything be done about the problem of cheating in Polish schools?
There is no doubt that the problem of cheating at schools in Poland is very
common. That is probably due to our historical background and the fact that no one
really ever does anything about it. According to the survey that was conducted on a
large group of people from various cities in Poland and coming from different
backgrounds, only 49 per cent of the surveyed consider cheating during exams as
something wrong and unforgivable, while 25 per cent actually approve such actions
(Boguszewski, 2007). It seems to be so popular at schools that nowadays people
who do not cheat are considered to be either “nerds” or “morons with no skills”.
Moreover, the popularity of this method resulted in the fact that students actually
boast about how much knowledge they managed to write down into their exam sheet
from the cribs they had earlier prepared.
There are lots of reasons for which people turn to cheating. First of all, people
choose this form of dishonesty because they consider it an easier option than
studying and therefore do not even try to learn the material properly. They lack any
motivation for studying, because they can cheat. Secondly, sometimes the students
are to obtain large amounts of book knowledge in a short period of time before the
exam, so they turn to cheating, as they do not manage to learn everything by heart
on such short notice. Additionally, sometimes even the incompetence of the teacher
of a given subject in explaining the material can be the cause why the students cheat
on exams. “The main reason for cheating is that it is easy to get away with. That
coupled with a tradition of getting round monitoring bodies under the previous political
regime results in an established tradition that shows no sign of dying out of its own
accord.” (Young, 2003) says David Young, an English teacher from Wroclaw.
As it was mentioned before, Poland had a rich and quite cruel history.
Especially during the Second World War, skill such as gathering information an
avoiding detection while forking for the resistance were sought among the people to
be necessary in successful fight for independence. After the war, the winning Russian
Red Army entered our territories and imposed socialistic order upon our country.
Once again, having to cope with strict authorities and teachers at school the Polish
had to resort to cheating, not only at school but also in everyday life.
Sadly, although those times are gone for more than 16 years, we still develop
those deceptive skills. Moreover, the present tolerance for this kind of activities and
pathetic laws controlling such unwanted behaviour does not at all help containing the
cheating during exams and making it disappear. The main problem is that in order to
improve statistics of a given school, the teachers themselves and even headmasters
allow students to cheat during their final exams. For instance, this “help” of the
headmasters can be telling the teachers to leave the examination room for a moment,
which is against the idea of the teacher ensuring that the students show off the
knowledge they possess, but not the one they have “in their pockets”. Such actions
do not at all reflect the values they were supposed to treasure.
Of course there is a law in penal code, which states that when we use
someone else’s words or we summarize or paraphrase his or her work without paying
certain respect to that work and claiming its authorship we commit a crime, namely
violation of copyright or in other words plagiarism. (Agnosiewicz, 2004) However, in
today’s reality this law is only applied to sophisticated works like Master’s and
doctoral theses, lectures, dissertations and other academic works. If such crime is
discovered, the only thing that happens is public humiliation of the author of the
plagiarized work by showing him or her on the public television and that is about it.
There are not many further repercussions after that. Naturally, the rightful author can
sue the person who plagiarized him, but that is quite expensive and therefore few
people decide to take up such steps.
On the other hand, in the countries of Western Europe like the UK or in North
America, there is no public consent for cheating and it is regarded as something foul,
abominable and disgraceful. Such an approach to cheating is quite understandable,
since this kind of behaviour in those early stages of our lives may lead to the state
that we cheat at everything, not only writing something, but also at work, at home and
such. The students themselves consider it unjust and unfair towards the other
students. (Zamoyski, 2005) As Professor Zygmunt Zamoyski, a famous activist
against cheating in Poland, who came to Poland from Great Britain in 1989, says to
his students: “Cheating during exams and tests is unfair, being a form of theft of good
grades other students have been working so hard for. The result of cheating is
decreasing the quality of degrees and qualifications acquired at schools of higher
education in Poland. Cheating corrupts the youth and depreciates the education
system in Poland and brings embarrassment in the eyes of other
countries.” (Zamoyski Z., 2005)*
There is a number of ways to deal with the problem of cheating in Poland. For
instance, we could introduce stricter laws and regulations to prevent the potential
cheaters from cheating. One of the main advantages of this solution is the fact that
people will think a couple of times more before resorting to cheating. Another
advantage, actually directly connected with the first one is the fact that such strict
regulations can turn out to be a perfect motivator for student to get down to some
serious studying and can of course result in better overall knowledge of the students.
However good such a solution may seem, one has to remember that this is only a
medicine for this problem and that it would only cure the symptoms, not the source of
Another possible solution can be series of lectures on dishonesty and cheating
for the youngest at primary schools. This method, on the other hand, is aimed at the
young generation, so if conducted properly might significantly help us to eradicate the
problem of cheating. Unfortunately, this solution’s major drawback is the fact that the
effects of those lectures will not be visible from the very beginning. To see the effect
of this method we would have to wait a few or even more than ten years. Another
major disadvantage is the fact that such lectures need to be supported by another
series of lectures, but this time for the parents and teachers as well. The best solution
for that would be to educate the teachers on the matter and let the teachers educate
the parents, probably during parents’ evenings.
Of course introducing such solutions would require not only large amounts of
good will and determination, but also funds from the government. To fulfil the first
solution we would have to cerate a special group or employ a company that will take
care of preparing a proper bill that will later on be approved by the government and
the president of Poland, introducing those stricter laws. Such procedures are very
slow and bringing those laws into life would require also a certain amount of time –
about two to four years. In addition, the headmasters would have to be acquainted
with the new laws, so some lectures, brochures or an article on the Internet site of the
Ministry of Education would be required as well. In order to bring the second solution
into effect we would, as I mentioned before need lots of government funds for special
trainings for teachers who would later on, pass their knowledge on to the young
generation and their parents. Actually despite those trainings, we should also
consider when such lectures would take place. It would be both sensible and
relatively cheap to conduct those lectures once a week during school time for children
and during parents’ evenings for their parents.
To sum up, we can say that definitely there can be something done about the
problem of cheating in Polish schools. In fact, many schools of higher education have
already begun to fight plagiarism and they gradually achieve success in getting rid of
cheating at their university. The only choice left to decide is what solution to this
problem would be the best. Anyone who reads this essay should choose the solution
he or she thinks is the best.
* - Translation from Polish to English performed by the author of this essay
Agnosiewicz, M. (2004). Odpowiedzialność karna za czyny naruszające
prawa autorskie i prawa pokrewne. Racjonalista.pl. Retrieved May 27,
Stadnicka, L. (2005). Co z tym ściąganiem? Wywiad z Zygmuntem Zamoyskim.
Idź pod prąd. Retrieved May 26, 2007: http://www.podprad.knp.lublin.pl/
Boguszewski, R. (2005). Wartości I normy w życiu człowieka. Komunikat z
badań. CBOS - Public Opinion Research Center in Poland. Warsaw
Płońska, P.(2007). Do oszustwa przyznało się 80proc. badanych uczniów - Ściąganiu
kontra KRONIKA – official magazine of the University of Łódź. Retrieved
May 26, 2007: http://www.uni.lodz.pl/portal/kronika.php?
Young, D. (2003, September). Cheating in Poland HLT Magazine. Retrieved May
27, 2007: http://www.hltmag.co.uk/sep03/sart3.htm