Which student is guilty?

Which student is guilty?

I am teaching in a migrant school, teaching students from the Karen ethnic group from Eastern Myanmar and with refugees around Mae Sot. The area I'm interested in is the difference in attitude towards the two people involved in copying person to person as opposed from the internet. The Karen people characteristically see no fault in the person whose work is being copied. They see it as a normal social act of helping others who might be in difficulties.

One incident at this school a few years ago illustrates this. An English born teacher identified a copying situation and called out both parties in front of the class, which was outdoors. The other classmates accepted that the one who had copied was at fault but balked at the idea of punishment for the one whose work had been copied. As punishment the teacher told both parties to run around the football pitch. What followed was that all the class students ran around the pitch as a gesture of solidarity with the one whose work was copied. I am curious if you have seen this phenomenon with other ethnic groups?

It makes me question our Western attitude to the one whose work has been copied. We tend to view them as part of a conspiracy to defraud the school or grading system. Increasingly I am seeing this as a self-serving attitude perpetuated by the school because it helps the school administration, Does the student have a greater duty of care to the school or to their classmate? I think you could certainly argue in favour of the latter, especially as one is a real person and the other an institution.

Loyalty to the institution is a learned behaviour taught mainly by the institution itself and arguably for its own rather than any community benefit. The person copied from is frequently a high academic performer and has little to gain academically from the practice; maybe a small amount of social kudos but not a lot. I don't have a clear cut resolution for theses questions but what is becoming increasingly clear is that it's not just a black and white, open and shut case.


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