Friday, February 16, 2007

Cheating and Karaoke

I've spent the past 10 weeks teaching an advanced English class, mostly at nights, 12 hours a week. The course was at a language institute, which means that my students get certificates, not grades at the end. I taught about 12 people, ranging in age from 16-25, 11 of whom were female.

I started giving weekly quizzes at a certain point, which I stated clearly were only mock exams -- I never put grades on top, I just put checks next to correct answers and wrote the right answers next to incorrect ones. Still, the amount of cheating (a word I had to teach them) was amazing. People were always passing their papers back and forth, whispering answers in Mongolian and writing cheat sheets on their hands -- this for a class without grades!

I was talking to one of my friends who teaches at the University of Humanities here, and there, apparently, cheating is also rampant. And blatant. Students, when asked to write a paper, will rip whole paragraphs of the internet, and not even bother to change the font so it matches that of the rest of the paper.

There is this sense of needing to get good grades, but it's not really based on anything. It's fairly impossible to fail out of a Mongolian university -- if you keep paying tuition, you can keep taking classes. And, at my school, there aren't even grades to strive for.

Still, I gave my students their final exam on Wednesday evening, and, when I walked in at six, several of my students were huddled around a table, studying. They said they'd been there since three. What's more, they all did incredibly well, without any of them cheating (that I could tell, and I usually can).

They did so well that last night, to celebrate, we snuck out of the school and did three hours of karaoke. NB -- Britney Spears is stellar for non-native English speakers.


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