IN MY OPINION
A new semester and a new set of students, and I am wondering whether my introductory speeches explaining that plagiarism and copying are not welcome in the classroom will be adhered to.
Thai director Apichatpong Weerasethakul poses during a photocall after he received the Golden Palm award for his movie ‘Lung Boonmee Raluek Chat’ (‘Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives’) at the 63rd Cannes Film Festival in Cannes, France, May 23. EPA/CHRISTOPHE KARABA
Rotten to the core
I have to admit that when I was at school I copied homework. Not all the time, you understand, just when it was necessary to meet a deadline or attain the allusive B grade I was striving for. Of course, this doesn't make it right.
Latin was the subject in which I copied the most. I didn't have the faintest idea about Latin and couldn't understand why I was learning a language that nobody spoke.
The situation must be similar for students of English in most parts of Thailand. Why would they want to learn a language that nobody they know uses?
In a way, I can understand why they feel the need to copy and cheat. However, it is the duty and responsibility of teachers to make our students understand that this kind of behaviour will result in cheating and deception in other walks of life if it is allowed to go unchecked.
A breach of integrity
Last year, it was widely reported in the Thai media that Ms Pompatchaya, a Thai student, had won an award at the Cannes Film Festival. It turned out that she had not won an award and that she had "used a few English terms when I talked to the reporters and there was a misunderstanding". I found it hard to understand how an email from a viewer complimenting the film was mistaken as an award, but there you go, English is a very confusing language.
At the time, I thought that this was a perfect example of how inaccurate information can spread through the media if facts remain unchecked. It was the Bangkok Post's Kong Rithdee who once again shone light on this phenomenon by calling into question all those concerned in the media, making clear that he was not being judgemental as to whether Ms Pompatchaya was being dishonest.
Imagine my surprise that this year's winner of the Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival was a film called Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. Yes, you've guessed it, it is a Thai film directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul about a dying man who is visited by numerous spirits in dream-like sequences.
I can safely say that this type of film is not my cup of tea. However, seeing as I am a son-in-law of Isan and the main role is played by a roof welder from northeastern Thailand, I think I will make an exception this time.
When I heard the news, I went through my records to find the previous year's article as this year's achievement demonstrates what can be achieved through skill and hard work. Not everyone can win awards and accolades for their work, whether it is film-making or schoolwork. However, it must be a hollow victory for those who claim achievement even if, unknowingly, it is not the truth.
Now I feel that I can look to this new semester with hope that my students can take encouragement from those who achieve their goals through hard work. Who knows, maybe they will surprise me by not copying their homework, or cutting and pasting from the internet and claiming the content as their own.
Steve Graham is an English-language teacher at the Language Centre, Udon Thani Rajabhat University in northeast Thailand. You may discuss matters related to this article, by sending your comments to 'In My Opinion' at email@example.com.
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