On Cheating in Japan


Despite cheating on spelling tests from the first grade onwards, I don’t consider myself a cheater.

In Japan, cheating isn’t as gut stirringly offensive as it is in the west. If you were caught cheating you were usually failed for an assignment. Even worse, you can be expelled from university for plagiarism. In Japan, I feel like plagiarism is a solid way of faking it until you make it, or faking it so your teacher doesn’t have to put up with you.

Maybe it’s the same sort of feeling that I had towards spelling tests in my elementary school days. I loathed those things. Not because I was bad at them, but because everyone felt like sharing. “What did you get?”  Anything below 100% was a failure. Despite being a quite capable speller, I would habitually write the difficult words on the inside of my desk. I would glance down, reading the hardly legible grey text on grey metal, and get the spelling tests right.

Now, I’m fully aware that spelling tests are about as useful for teaching spelling as asking your pet dog to help you study. The best way to learn to spell most words is by reading them. Beyond that, Microsoft Word will fix your mistakes for you. We don’t live in a world where spelling matters. So cheating on a spelling test is akin to using a recipe to bake a cake. You might not have it memorized, but you know where to find the recipe. You got you cake, I spelled my word.

(Fun fact, recipe is one of the words I can’t spell)

So, in Japan, it seems there’s a very collective attitude towards cheating. There are going to be students who don’t get it. They cheat. Students willingly hand over papers, discuss what should be private answers with each other, and whisper the correct answer to their petrified classmates. None of the teachers care at all.

They actually encourage it.

The jury is out on whether or not this is helpful. I for one don’t think it is. It gives the kids that are bad at a subject, especially English, a reason to remain bad. English is like spelling. Students plan on living in Japan and Japanese people (very pridefully) don’t speak English.

So I took a page out of their book.

I’m taking a very stupid and useless Japanese course that is entirely in Japanese. I have no one teaching it to me, just the computer that provides explanations for grammar constructions with words like “for expressing location and the like~”

Because I’m sure in Japanese, one word doesn’t express every locative concept.

I cheated. You can take the test as many times as you want. It was due to be finished today, so I went through, took it once, got the answers, wrote them down, and retook the test. Viola. I win.

I mean, when I get a certificate at the end proclaiming my abilities of Japanese are okay, I’m sure I won’t use it. I’m really just trying to keep my supervisor off my back. So when in Rome, do as the Romans do…



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