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With university and Matric exams looming, desperate learners and students who feel that cheating may be their only shot at passing should reconsider, and not only for ethical reasons, an education expert says.
“At this stage, you may feel that it is the only option remaining for you, but what you think is the quickest and easiest route may very well destroy your future, and have repercussions that follow you throughout your life,” says Dr Gillian Mooney, Dean: Academic Development and Support at The Independent Institute of Education SA’s largest and most accredited private higher education institution.
“If you cheat, you risk turning what would have remained a private challenge that could have been overcome within a year or two, into a public scandal that could ruin your reputation for life,” she says.
Mooney says anyone contemplating cheating, or who is approached by someone offering assistance in this regard, should do a quick Google search to see how slim their chances are of getting away with it, and to understand the dire consequences of getting caught.
“Every year, without fail, we hear about scores of matriculants whose results are held back, who face criminal charges, who are banned from writing NSC exams for years, and who spend ages in court as a result of cheating. Quite simply, it is not worth it. Cheating methods have become more sophisticated and no longer falls in the domain of scribbling crib notes on the back of a ruler. But if you think that your teachers and lecturers are not wise to today’s tricks of the trickery trade, you are quite mistaken,” she says.
“We would like to remind everyone, and particularly those who are desperately scared of failing or not achieving the results they require, that the consequences of failing honestly now are infinitely preferable to the consequences of being caught cheating. Remember to keep playing the long game, and build a solid future on honest results. Even if you do get away with cheating – and the chances are slim that you will – there will still be consequences and you will never be free from the knowledge that your qualification was stolen, not earned.”
Mooney says that prospective cheaters should take note that they still have time to put in an extra push, and pull in extra resources to give themselves the best shot. And they should also know that - if the worst case scenario of failure did come to pass - an additional year working towards a qualification is better than living with a lifetime of reputational damage.
She also warns innocent learners and students who are not contemplating cheating to immediately distance themselves from anyone discussing it.
“Do not engage in that kind of conversation with anyone. And if you do hear or see it happening, immediately report it. Often cheating happens where a teacher is complicit by, for instance, leaking an exam paper ahead of time. If you have been part of conversations with a group of people who are subsequently busted for cheating, you risk being seen as guilty as well.”
Mooney advises students and learners who recognise that things are not looking good for them at this admittedly late stage in the game, to speak to their teacher or lecturer to discuss what can be done.
“There may be an opportunity to take a crash course in a challenging subject, to get a tutor to assist with your studies, or to work with friends to support and tutor each other. Whatever the options, most teachers will be happy to brainstorm your options with you and assist where possible.”
It should also be remembered that although it might seem catastrophic at this stage, bad results or even failure doesn’t need to mean the end of one’s dreams for a successful future, Mooney says.
“You may just need to review your options and tweak your plans for the next few years, which although it may seem disappointing at this stage, may even turn out to be a blessing. If you are able to face up to your situation now and handle it maturely and pragmatically, you will be learning a very important life lesson and grow as a human being, which may just put you on a better path for the future,” she says.
Maybe your marks won’t be good enough to get you into the higher education institution, university, or course of choice, which means that you either need to write supplementary exams or review your options for other qualifications or institutions. Maybe you need to repeat the year, which will allow you a fresh opportunity to really give it your all and excel beyond what you thought you could do.
“Whichever way it plays out, learners and students should know that there are so many options open to them to still make a success of their lives, even if things are not looking great right now. And all of these options, no matter how you look at it, will be better than opting to become an exam cheat.”