Modern College students say teacher told them to plagiarise material for exam

Four of those caught plagiarising claim they were just following their teacher's instructions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 24 July, 2013, 7:57pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 25 July, 2013, 2:56am

Pupils caught plagiarising in the Diploma of Secondary Education exams say they were told by their teacher to copy from the internet and are appealing against the decision to disqualify them.

The 23 pupils, who all had the same teacher at the Prince Edward campus of private secondary school Modern College, were found to have plagiarised passages from the internet without citations in projects for the school-based assessment part of the Chinese-language subject. The projects counted for 20 per cent of their grades in the subject.

The Examinations and Assessment Authority invalidated their Chinese-language exam papers, meaning they received no score.

Yesterday, four of the pupils broke their silence on the matter. Wearing face masks and insisting on anonymity, they said they were only doing what they had been told to do by their teacher.

They said he had told them that the project was only a minor part of the assessment for the subject and that they could freely copy material from the internet.

The pupils also claimed that when asked if references were needed for the internet sources, their teacher said no. He also did not ask them to sign a declaration stating the projects were their original work, as was required by the authority, the pupils said.

The same man taught all three of the school's Form Six Chinese classes. Pupils were disqualified from the subject in each of them.

"He said we didn't have to take the projects seriously because he wouldn't be assessing them seriously, either," said one of the four pupils. "We didn't intend to plagiarise. All we had to do was give citations. Why would we choose not to and risk being disqualified?"

Another of the teacher's pupils, who was not disqualified, confirmed that the teacher had told them to copy from the internet without citations, but said he chose not to follow this advice.

Most of the 23 pupils took the Diploma of Secondary Education last year and can still apply for tertiary programmes if they use their scores across the two years. But the four pupils yesterday asked the examination authority to rethink its decision, saying it was hindering their chances of being accepted for further study.

"It gives a bad impression if there is a disqualification on our records and we're from Modern College," one of the pupils said. "They'll ask if we were the ones who were caught plagiarising."

Education sector lawmaker Ip Kin-yuen said a reasonable approach would be to invalidate the pupils' school-based assessment but grade their exam papers. He added that the school and the teacher involved should bear some responsibility and apologise for not giving the full story.

A spokesman for the examination authority said candidates could appeal against their results, but that the authority would not meet any candidate during the reassessment process. The four pupils who spoke out yesterday have appealed. They will find out the results on August 13.

A school spokesman said pupils were welcome to tell their side of the story and that it was investigating. "If we find out that anyone at the school made a mistake, we will apologise," he said.