Monday, November 14, 2005

Response to Anonim

Anonim commented on my post “Why Russian students cheat”.

Are we living in the same country with you? In Russia I live in, you would never get into a good university or school without a bribe or connections.

The answer depends on what is meant by a “good” university or school. In Russia I live a good university is the one that gives your career a boost upon graduation. People who talk a lot about total bribery and corruption miss the fact that Russian employers are far from being na?ve or stupid. If you are an owner of a dental clinic, would you hire a dentist when you know that he got his degree at a corrupt university? Never! If you hear only once that dentistry students at the XYZ School of Medicine pay bribes for their grades, for your clinic their diplomas are not worth the paper they are printed on.

Serious employers are very scrupulous about the reputation of colleges they hire people from. For example, the receptionist at our office has a diploma magnum cum laude from, let’s say, Mukhosransk University. Although she personally was really a very good student the bad reputation of her school is her damnation now. If she were pickier about her school she wouldn’t be sitting here receiving and directing phone calls. On the other hand, job descriptions from the top Russian corporations often go, “Applicants with degrees other than from MFTI, MVTU or MIFI need not bother”. You see, these three schools are known for their impeccable reputation, so their degrees are worth at least five times more than a degree from Mukhosransk. It’s all about money, nothing personal. Employers need to filter applicants earlier before they prove their total incompetence. If the school is known to be corrupt, don’t expect to find a good job. Besides, security at serious companies doesn’t like people who solve their problems by giving bribes.

Go and talk to university students, they'll tell you that in many cases you can pass the exam by putting some money in your student's record book.

Two sons of my neighbor are currently students at MIFI. I asked them the question. The answer was “NEVER!” Although MIFI is a so-called engineers’ college (Moscow Physics Engineering Institute) its diplomas are welcomed everywhere. An average starting salary for a MIFI graduate is US$ 900. An oil company I worked for hired accountants and finance managers only from MIFI or MFTI even if they studied nuclear physics there. The rationale – a person who “survived” five years at MIFI can cope with a 2-year course of financial accounting in about two months. If you made it there, you make everywhere.

And what is so special about lecture-tutorial-lab srtucture? This is how it is done in the US too as far as I know.

You are wrong. Russian system is basically German albeit stemming from the 19th century. American system is basically British.

Moreover, there is much less opportunity for a professor to be biased towards a particular student, because it the exam is written, noone can say that a person who wrote it knows less, than what he wrote. And believe me, not many students in the US would risk being expelled by cheating or plagiarizing, which is a common practice in Russian universities.

You didn’t get an idea of my post. You also don’t need to say, “believe me” as I got my MBA in the US. As graduate students we were often allowed to “cheat”: open books exams or one library card “cheat sheet” (microscopes were not allowed). All in all, American examination system makes most of cheating methods useless. Just consider this – you have 3 hours to answer 50 multiple choice questions, 20 open questions and solve 10 problems. Where do you expect to hide your 600-pages cheat sheet?

Considering your age, you probably have not been able to fit into the present state of things and are still living in the communist past.

Aha! Now I see. First, you made a pre-supposition that I’m old and didn’t fit into the present state of things (whatever it means). Then using argumentae ad hominem tactics you decided that your blanket statements on total corruption of Russian educational system should be taken as logical. Your blanket might be well sized, but it covers only a part of the bed, as all global generalizations do.

It's sooo annoying that so many Russians use every opportunity to talk about how something in Russia is better than in America.

I recommend taking an anger management class not to be soooo annoyed. Particularly, when I didn’t say a word about Russian education being better than American. They are different with their unique pros and contras. I only tried to give a rational answer to the question why Russian students cheat.


Anonymous said...

Gee, thanks for dedicated a whole post to my comment. I'm flattered.

1. I did not say they do not cheat in the US Universitites. I said not many would, especially plagiarize, while in Russia it is a common practice.

2. I too have a relative, who tried to get into the prestigious 1st Moscow medical institute as a state-sponsored" (for the luck of a better word)student this summer. She was told right when she was submitting her application that all the quota has been decided for long before.

3. Your age. I would have been more correct if I said that you have preserved all the stereotypes of the communist era, it you will.

4. You said "All in all, American examination system makes most of cheating methods useless." And why do you think it is so? Could it be because they wanted to do smth to eliminate cheating and bias?

5. "If you are an owner of a dental clinic, would you hire a dentist when you know that he got his degree at a corrupt university?" I wouldn't indeed. I would hire s/o who could prove that he knows what he/she is doing, which is not so difficult determine. That would not mean, however that this person never paid to pass his/her exam.

6. Do you really think that a University is better regarded in Russia on the grounds of being less corrupt? Which University in Russia is the most prestigious? МГИМО. How many people just went and got into it based on the marks?

7. Annoyance doesn't have anything to do with anger, so you kind suggestions are not appropriate there, thanks.

I could go on, but have better things to do.

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