When kids (and parents) become criminals

I’ve just finished reading an article on Le Mauricien entitled Computing : des Courseworks sous-traités et tarifés. In the article, the journalist explains how HSc students in Mauritius pay some teachers, some lecturers, some past students and even some  IT professional (what this may mean) to do their projects for money and this is done with the benediction of parents.

Here is a revealing quote from the article:

Les “services” de ces “helpers” sont tarifés selon la complexité du travail. “Pas moins de Rs 5 000 ; cela peut aller jusqu’à Rs 15 000. Un contractuel qui ne se contente que d’un coursework par an demandera un prix élevé. Mais celui qui produit plusieurs projets réclamera Rs 5 000 à Rs 6 000 à chaque candidat ” affirme cet enseignant. Des enseignants de Computing relatent ce cas référé à la police, il y a trois ans, et impliquant un enseignant qui avait réclamé Rs 4 000 pour chaque “commande” reçue. [...] Le plus grave, indique-t-on, c’est que ces travaux réalisés à l’école se font, dans la majorité des cas, avec la bénédiction des parents.

Plagiarism too…

The article also states that some students are now adepts of copying prior works from the Internet or even from past students. The journalist writes that more frequent and thorough verifications from the MES would be a good thing in order to help reduce this problem.

Personally, I feel the problem runs deep in our education system where accent is on succeeding at exams instead of acquiring knowledge and mastering a skill. Students and parents both wrongly believe that what is important is that piece of paper from Cambridge. They forget that the essential reason why people study is to become productive adults who can work efficiently so as to have time to enjoy life.

Work is not about waking up in the morning at six, leaving home at seven, getting in an office in Port-Louis at nine and having to work overtime (more or less) everyday because one is not productive enough. This is a recipe for catastrophe and frustration (which sometime characterises our society.)

Work is…

According to me, work is loving what you do and finding it easy. Work is also about getting home early to have time to play with your kids. Work, finally, is also about being good enough for your boss (yourself in case you are self-employed like me) to pay you a nice salary.

And it so happens that a lot of parents don’t know that. This is where things need to change if we want our society to evolve.

En apparté…

Taking tuitions seven days a week and focussing 100% on succeeding at exams is also a bad strategy. Sure, it creates a scholarship holder or a laureate but I’m afraid a lot of them lack creativity (because they were imposed so many constraints over so many years.) The problem is that, according to the World Economic Forum, organisers of the Davos forum, Mauritius has an “educational system [which] gets mediocre marks for quality” and the country will have a lot of problems to transition to an innovation-driven economy due to a lack of people who can innovate.

Let’s hope they are wrong. But, I’ll be frank, I think they are right.

Comments

  1. Great post. I agree with what you said. Education in Mauritius is just about getting very good results and that’s all. At least at college level. We are not taught to enjoy studies. And if you as a student dare to say that you study because you like it, you are considered to be lame or simply a fool.

    Ironically, last year in Form 3 we were creating simple HTML web pages. Most of the class did pretty well. This year when we asked for our e-mail address, only 1/4 of the class had one. Students in Mauritius learn Computer Studies from Standard 1 to Form 3 but they don’t even have an e-mail address or even a brief introduction to what Facebook is really. :)

  2. Hello,

    This is sadly a true reality. In Mauritius, too much emphasis is placed on the importance of a certificate. Not so much attention is given to the process of learning, gaining knowledge, and discovering one-self.

    That’s from CPE, where we’re engineered to succeed, even cheat, at all costs. And when it comes to secondary school, kids are not used to doing their homework, but copying from friends. And then, it’s no surprise that projects and other dissertations also are copied/given to someone else to be made.

    And parents? Well, they want their kids to get A grades at all costs. And they are ready to put up all means to do achieve this.

    And that’s why, in Mauritius, we’re a nation full of highly qualified people when it comes to certificates, but not good at inventing things, at finding solutions to our problems in everyday life, at doing things, etc.

    And things don’t stop here. Even at university, things go the same. And even PhD holders copy thesis…

    A nation so good when it comes to certificates…

  3. To Yadhav:

    True. So many fundamentals are wrongly taught in Mauritius. I love this saying: “Lorsque le sage montre la lune du doigt, l’imbécile regarde le doigt.”

    I feel we focus way too much on the finger instead of the moon. I am always amazed when I ask students WHY they studied something (e.g. differentiation) and they have no clue. I don’t even mention that practically no one knows WHO did the invention (as history is not really our forte.)

    To Dilraj:

    You’re right about us being a nation of certificates. And also right about people plagiarising at all levels.

  4. “Subcontracting” computer projects has been around for quite a while. But I also know people who guide the students rather than doing the project for them.

  5. Of course. Helping someone is ok. But it seems that some people offer this as a paid service… then it becomes bad as it’s cheating.

  6. Hello I am going to relate to you an injustice that happened to me and 3 other friends.

    I did computing in 2007 and retook it in 2008.. There are 2 projects to be submitted. I carry forward one of the project[pap.4]. The other one [pap.2] cannot be carried forward and need to be re submitted. First time i had obtained a grade 1 in the project (Paper 2) [-the teacher at the time even made a sample project out of my project because it was excellent! ] and the Second time i got a 4! [Different teacher] Most shocking is that it is an improved project over the last. Everything in my program was working and i included all the elements needed (according to syllabus) in the program. My former teacher even made my project a sample project for other student to follow from. The Syllabus has not change, marking is the same. How can 1 become 4??

    This downgraded my result for computing and overall result. I got B instead of A in computing because of this! In theoretical paper i got 1 P1 and 3 P2. I know other candidates got worst than this in theory but still got A because they got 1 in both projects.
    In most elite colleges MOST student got no worse than 3. Because they know their students is competing .. I’ve seen other project poorer than mine scoring 1s or 2s.

    I met the teacher and he said to me the worst mark he gave (to all students) was 3. Consequently i and 3 other students (same situation as mine) had to gather +8000rs to do a remarking for the entire center (u can’t just remark for a single student). The verdict finally came & CIE said that it was the teacher who allocated this mark so CIE cannot improve a teacher’s marks!

    The teacher claim is thus false. Only 1 student got a 1 in our school and the relation between them was very close! I don’t know what they did “sous tapis”. I worked hard on my project and was not rewarded at all! I sent a letter to the director of MES, to Mr. Bunwaree and my rector but got no answer. “A bon entendeur, salut!” Btw, now i am doing CSE @ UoM.

    THIS IS A DISGRACE AND TOTALLY UNFAIR!

  7. That’s a pity.

    I can’t judge the honesty of markers. But I would really like to know if there is any harmonisation process (in order to make sure that everyone has marked according to the same criteria and using the same metrics.)

  8. Yes, there is a guideline for project marking on how to allocate marks explained straight from the syllabus, But every teacher has there own methodology and besides they know the students whom they are marking. Prof la facilment kav coule ene zelev si li envi. Moderation is a big joke! They almost never change the teacher’s markings. Well only to downgrade it if marks is upscaled too much but never to improve the teacher’s marks. And this varies among centers. Elite school give better marks.[i know from friends].

    I personally think what happened to me is even more outrageous compared to the supposed “leakage” episode that happened the same year.. Almost everyone is blaming CIE when in Mauritius itself the system is corrupted. Some persons hinted for the MES to prepare HSC papers… i lol’ed.

  9. You should not lol :-)

    I guess you know BSc and MSc papers are produced in Mauritius by people like me (so preparing an HSc or SC paper would be trivial because those are just certificate level papers…) The thing is that we operate in a strict triple-control environment: The lecturer prepares the paper and the model answers, give both to one moderator who is also a lecturer locally. When the latter gives a positive feedback, the paper and the model answers are sent to an external moderator (most of the time, he/she’s a lecturer in a major university abroad) who has to vet everything. It is only then that the exam paper is submitted to the exam section for duplication, etc.

    What I’m implying is that, for things to be correct, there must be some kind of moderation of marks. And when multiple markers are involved, harmonisation is pretty much essential as no two person mark in the same way.

  10. Interesting and comforting to learn it’s done this way, myself being a BSc CS student at UoM. But believe me this is not the case for A-level Computing projects or not practiced rigorously enough. It seems that every center have their own way of marking. In some center projects are marked too strict whilst others are much more flexible (and generous). How can a 1 become a 4? Too much divergence…

    Beside i don’t think the “project” of the CIE Computing really make student learn programming. A lot don’t. Many just copy-paste, extract codings from various sources to incorporate in theirs. They don’t know what the code in their own projects does. Many do what is stated in this article.. they magically come with a bullet-proof project on the last day. They score straight 1s in projects but got lower grades in theoretical papers. I’m in favor of a programming paper or a practical programming exam conducted in lab -as it is the case with science subjects. They will be forced to learn the programming constructs lol. I think you will also share my views on this :)

  11. You’re correct. I would love exams to be based more on demonstrating actual skills :-)

    Incidentally, it all boils down to this quote from the World Intellectual Property Organization, “The kinds of works covered by copyright include: literary works such as novels, poems, plays, reference works, newspapers and computer programs”

    Computer Programming is a literary work, the art of written works. And to write, one needs (i) to know prior works and (ii) to be creative and (iii) to have learned the skill.

    Now, think about it, do we show students prior works? Do teachers show students beautiful software architecture or beautiful code? Was accent put on being creative? Did the teacher ask to find solutions to problems with no obvious solution where you really have to think? And did the teacher really transmitted the skill of programming? I have some doubts. You know why? Because most teachers (and most lecturers for that matter) are not programmers themselves!

    Teaching programming to someone when you’re not a programmer is ineffective. As ineffective as teaching writing novels or a poem when you have never ever written one yourself.

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