The Journey of Academic Integrity in the context of the Indian Education System

The International Center for Academic Integrity defines Academic Integrity as a commitment to the five fundamental values: Trust, Fairness, Respect, Responsibility, Honesty and the Courage to abide by these values, even in the face of adversity. As per Wikipedia “Academic integrity supports the enactment of educational values through behaviors such as the avoidance of cheating, plagiarism, and contract cheating, as well as the maintenance of academic standards; honesty and rigor in research and academic publishing.” Ideally, Academic Integrity should be as intrinsic to a scholar or writer as is personal integrity to an individual. It is a matter of internalizing right from the beginning, as one starts to learn as a child. The onus of inculcating the values and principles of Academic Integrity lies with all the educators, formal and informal (parents,relatives,society, etc)

So where did this start? As per recorded history, it started as honor codes in the United States in the late 18th century.However, it was still perceived to be important and relevant to the individual students and driven by individuals; it was only taken up at the institution (University) level towards the end of the 19th century. However, the articulation and implementation of the principles and practices was still at a very nascent stage and it took some time for institutions to correlate its students’ adherence to academic integrity policies with their own reputation.

In India, while the principles of Academic Integrity were followed in ancient india in the times of gurukul, it was only in 2018 that the University Grants Commision enacted the "UGC (Promotion of Academic Integrity and Prevention of Plagiarism in Higher Educational Institutions) Regulations, 2018" . Today, most academic institutions in India abide by the recommendations and acceptable norms and policies laid down by the UGC.

So why do students indulge in academic misconduct? The most common reason we hear is the lack of time. Let’s explore a bit deeper as there are various factors that may lead to this scenario:

  1. Lack of appreciation of the importance of Academic Integrity: The awareness of the importance of Academic Integrity needs to begin early at home and at school. Students need to understand that pursuing academic integrity is as important as personal integrity and it is more of a habit rather than some ad hoc interventions taken at the institution level.

Educators at the secondary level need to reinforce these values and principles of academic integrity. They also need to focus on training the young learners towards a more application oriented approach towards learning and original thinking, so that students are oriented to think and write original.

  1. The principles and practices of writing with integrity need to be discussed with students at every level of their education journey. In Higher education, the educators or faculty members also need to train students on the techniques of academic writing. The project guides play an important role in guiding students and young researchers on the techniques, time management skills, best practices and the acceptable levels of similarity for the particular project they are working on.

  2. Throughout the journey of education, it may be worthwhile to share real life case studies on how positive academic practices have been rewarding as much as the negative consequences (sometimes very long term) of academic misconduct.

  3. It is important for immediate family members as well as secondary school educators to make students aware of the concept of contract cheating, which is one of the most recent and serious kinds of “unoriginal” writing. Even parents or siblings writing on behalf of a young student or students replicating content from text books can pave the way for academic misconduct going forward in their academic journey.

Along with inculcating the principles of Academic Integrity from the early years and reinforcing the same at every level of the education system, it is also critical to create a formative learning environment and provide effective feedback for every student assignment/assessment. This will ensure students can learn from every assessment and apply that learning going forward as well. This will lead to student confidence, assessment integrity and effective learning.

It is critical to guide students on academic integrity and the tools and techniques of original writing. Students also need to own their part of the academic integrity journey: some tips for students can be:

  • Manage your time during the researching and writing process wisely.

  • Employ effective research strategies.

  • Choose when to summarize, paraphrase, or quote information  from your sources.

  • Provide proper citations for your paraphrased, quoted,  or summarized information.

  • Use the Turnitin Similarity Report to learn from and correct your mistakes.

  • Own your academic integrity and ask your instructor  questions when you need help.

The family, our educators, fellow students, project guides/research guides/mentors and the society as a whole can work together to ensure good quality academicians and researchers/research documents can come out of our rich Indian education ecosystem.

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