Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Is Cheating Part Of Chinese Culture?

Is Cheating Part Of Chinese Culture?


Cheating seems to be a very common problem here in China. From the classroom to the boardroom. Sometimes it seems as if it is just an acceptable and expected way of life.

We recently gave mid-term exams at a high school where I teach a few classes a week. The students were all put into a large lecture hall with two seats between them as they took the exam. They are placed this way to try to keep them from cheating. Regardless, as one of the monitors of the exam, I moved one of the smarter students (he ended up getting the highest score in the class) because of the boy behind him attempting to see his exam.

When I talked to one teacher about this problem she said, "Well, if you were sitting next to someone and could cheat, wouldn't you?" I said, "Absolutely not. In the USA if a student so much as glances (takes a quick look) at another student's exam, the teacher is very likely to give him a score of zero with no way of making it up. Besides, I wouldn't trust his answers if I could see his exam and decided to cheat." By the teacher's response, I realized that cheating is so common that it is expected by the teachers. 

I gave one exam at a local university where the person who ran the copies for my exam gave (or perhaps 'sold') the exam to my students before I gave it. Still, some students failed the exam. I suppose they didn't have the money to pay her. Even then, she wanted me to give the exam again to the students who failed. I found it somewhat incredible that you would give the same exam twice to a student who failed and who had rarely ever come to class. She said, "This is how we do it in China." I said, "No wonder most people have have little to no respect for the schools here and want to send their kids abroad."

A few months ago, I bought 4 school desks for the students that I tutor in my home. The desks were 140 RMB and were exactly what I wanted. They were the right size and had a small metal shelf under each one for the students to place books, paper or whatever else they need to put there. I realized that I needed one more. My Chinese assistant went back to the store to get another one. They wanted 180 RMB for the same desk less than 2 months later but they finally agreed on a price of 150 RMB.

When they delivered the desk, the shelf was not on it. So in fact, I was paying more and getting less than I'd paid for the other desks. My assistant called the owner and the owner laughed at her because she had prepaid her. When the assistant suggested that we would soon be ordering a large number of desks, the owner said she didn't care and even cursed my assistant. So in essence, the owner was determined to get her way over the extra 10 RMB and even cheated me by giving me less than I'd paid for. In the end, the owner didn't care.

It would be extremely rare for this to ever happen in the USA. Business owners are concerned about their reputation and will do whatever they can to make the customer happy. Even when they don't have much competition, they are more concerned about their name and reputation than they are in cheating someone out of a few dollars. This lady selling the desks forfeited any future business in order to cheat me out of what might have been less than 30 RMB. She gave up potentially several thousand yuan in sales to me to get her way. She got her way and did in fact cheat me. But her biggest punishment is that she'll never get any more of my business and of course I'll tell all the other school owners that I know to never go there unless they want the lady to cheat them (and possibly curse them) too.

Cheating is always a problem in schools. I would definitely say that it is a far bigger problem in China than other places I've been in the world. I have come to expect it after several attempts of people trying to cheat me here. When I asked a dean at a local university about it, he said, "Cheating is part of Chinese culture. We don't talk about but it is very likely to happen in every classroom and every business deal whether the deal is small or large."

What a sad thought. But, as a foreigner here, it is good for me to know. As long as I'm in China, I'm always running the risk of being cheated. As a teacher, I can expect any of my students to try to cheat. At least I know so that I can be prepared for such and have some plan of action of dealing with it.