Internet availability Bane or boon?

With the advent of information and communication technology it has become easier for professionals to enrich their knowledge-base. In the past couple of years alone, the number of internet users in Nepal has increased 500 per cent. As broadband and cable connections have gradually replaced the dial-up system, students and teachers have been able to glean information more effectively than in the past. As students are found to be more frequent internet users, they often are in the position to outsmart lousy teachers.

Internet has helped students to cull knowledge from a vast pool of information that teachers cannot be expected to remember. However, it is a pity that many universities in Nepal have not been able to provide internet facilities to their students. The schools and colleges which do provide internet facilities are more likely to be at the forefront in terms of quality education. Though some educational establishments have introduced internet facilities, use of internet is yet to become a common practice in most schools and colleges in Nepal.

Internet users in Nepal mostly belong to the young generation. Internet cafés teeming with youngsters have become a common sight in urban areas. If one assesses the use of internet in cyber cafes, it is mostly for frivolous activities such as playing games and chatting

that occupy most of the youngsters. Very few of them have a serious purpose

behind their internet cafe visits. This is because the teachers never encourage their students to use the internet to enrich their knowledge base. Nevertheless, internet users browsing the net for knowledge seem to be gradually on the rise. University teachers, consultants, trainers, researchers and students use the internet to gather information and knowledge which is not readily available elsewhere.

Internet has made it possible for people to download material of interest from

different sources. However, while internet has facilitated the availability of information it has also promoted plagiarism. Nepali students are commonly found copying contents for their assignments directly from the internet. Similar is the case with training centres where trainers use the downloaded material as if it were their own creation. One can easily spot plagiarism

in the articles published in several journals of Nepali academia. The researchers

and consultants use pages of downloaded material without any reference to the sources. This is an utter disrespect of one’s professional ethics. Even PhD, MPhil and M.ED theses submitted by students have contents directly lifted from the net.

This unpleasant practice will not only produce a new breed of pseudo- intellectuals but will adversely affect the entire educational system. Professionals everywhere are recognised for their professional ability and expertise rather than how deft they are at plagiarising the work of others. When professionals plagiarise web materials, they not only stifle their own ability to innovate but also lose their professional credibility. Plagiarism does not enhance our ability and expertise but turns us into useless bunch of degree-holders. It might help us to get academic degrees, but in the long run, it ensures our failure as professionals.

Let us take the example of textbook writers in Nepal. With some exceptions, one can find the contents of most books copied from other sources. Similarly, the booksellers are commonly found to compile downloaded materials and sell it to students. Tuition and coaching centres are no exceptions.

The amount of plagiarism at higher levels of education paints a very grim picture of our educational system.

Maybe, the practice of plagiarism is common practice elsewhere too but goes under the radar. But there is plenty of evidence in our own country when students have got an ‘F’ for plagiarism at the MPhil level. If we can discourage such practice and teach students the right way of using information on the web, they are likely to guide others to do the same. Only then can we have a moral claim over our academic accomplishments. It is true that knowledge once disseminated becomes public; however, we should learn to give credit to its originators. Stealing knowledge without revealing the sources and pretending it to be one’s own is no lesser a felony than any other form of crime.

Internet has opened countless doors of opportunity for our intellectual enhancement, but sadly, also created plenty of room for plagiarism. We should teach youngsters to use the information available on the web by crediting the proper sources and to put it to the best use. For this, we must learn to respect others for their knowledge and use it in a way that also enhances our creativity. Internet makes it possible for us to gather information and knowledge of import. However, using other’s knowledge without making any constructive effort ourselves will only ruin our own ability to create and learn.

Dr. Wagley is an educationist