While it is no secret that corruption in academic institutions exists in many countries around the world, just how big of a problem it is remains unknown. Several recent scandals seem to indicate that it continues to be a formidable challenge in many parts of the world, and that large-scale efforts will be required to reverse the trend.
In the United States, just this past March, over thirty school administrators, teachers, principals and other educators were indicted by a Federal grand jury in a wide-scale test-cheating scandal that rocked the Atlanta school district. And as we’ve previously explored on TRACE Blog, corruption continues to be a big problem in Russia’s higher education system as well, including teachers who are intentionally failing good students in an effort to extort more money from them. Similar incidents of corrupt school teachers have been reported in high schools in Vietnam, elementary schools in South Korea, and universities in Italy.
Anti-bribery activists are afraid that school corruption is beginning to have long-term consequences that are bigger than just inflating a few grades. One is that corruption dilutes the quality of learning for all students. In a study of corruption in schools in Moldova, the Partnership for Transparency Fund found that students who knew that money could buy them better grades tended to exert less effort in studying. Nguyen Quoc Binh, a principal of the Vietnam-German High School in Hanoi, recently echoed this sentiment in an interview with the Business Recorder newspaper: “bribery in exams makes students lazy.”
There is also a more serious concern that students who experience corruption at such a young age may develop a tolerance for corruption that will stay with them later in life. In a recent study of 1,000 youths published this month by Transparency International-Korea, 40% thought that being rich was more important than being honest, and 51% agreed that people who cheat have more success in life than those who don’t. That problem is already beginning to emerge in Russia. In what’s been dubbed “plagiarism-gate”, a series of scandals has recently exposed plagiarism in the dissertations of politicians and officials, including, most embarrassingly, by Vladimir Burmatov, a head of the education committee of Russia’s ruling party who has recently had to step down from his post. More…