Education Matters

Greetings and welcome to yet another edition of Education Matters. This time in the academic year, can be rather challenging and even strained as students globally prepare for final exams and University Entrance Examinations.

Without doubt, the anxiety generated impacts not only upon the individuals under going the process but affects the entire home environment! Exasperated parents complain how they are “forever walking on eggshells in their own home” or “when will this heavy black cloud ever leave our home”? Well the truth of the matter is, yes everyone knows how important these exams are and how stressed out the senior student is, but usually the process is resolved within two to three weeks and life does go back to normal. That is, until the exam results become known. A scenario that may in turn create beaming smiles and endless rounds of congratulations or moaning, weeping and gnashing of teeth. For the sake of your own wellbeing and that of your family’s, avoid the latter at all cost!!

On the matter of examinations and how they can influence an individual’s behaviour, I received this letter from a parent who is and rightly so, distressed by ther child’s misguided decision.

“Dear Dr. Leith, thank you so much for writing Education Matters. You address topics that many of my friends and I discuss, especially issues that really do affect us! Best of all you provide clear answers using simple step by step solutions!

My problem is rather awkward and embarrassing to explain but anyway, here goes. Recently my child was caught cheating in a Final Year Math Exam. I received a message from the Principal to attend a meeting, you know one of those please make an appointment with my secretary and come to my office at your earliest convenience. I had no idea what was going on until the Principal and the Math Teacher explained to me how my child had been caught cheating in the exam. If that wasn’t bad enough, the incident actually took place about a week prior to the interview and yet my child did not say a word about it. She just carried on at home as though nothing had happened!! We are really troubled by a number of things, why did she feel the need to cheat at all? Why didn’t she tell us about the cheating as soon as it happened? How could she possibly keep up the pretense that everything was OK when clearly it wasn’t! To tell you the truth Dr. Leith, I am very scared that we don’t really know our child at all. Can you please help? “


Cheating takes on a multitude of guises and is evident in virtually every aspect of the 21 century life style! To name just a few:

  1. Cheating in relationships.
  2. Cheating on your tax return.
  3. Cheating on your employer (time/money).
  4. Cheating in competitive games (where money is involved).
  5. Cheating in examinations. (Including plagarism].
  6. Cheating on family and friends.
  7. Cheating in texting and cyberspace (inevitable!)


To understand what cheating entails it is critical to comprehend why individuals take this pathway, here are but a few explanations:

  • They don’t think they will get caught.
  • It’s no big deal!
  • How else do I get to the top?
  • I was too lazy to study.
  • I was under so much pressure!
  • I wanted to prove I wasn’t dumb.
  • It’s not a punishable crime, is it?
  • Well, Mum’s cheating on Dad. Dad’s cheating the government, so why shouldn’t I cheat too?


This list is limited only by an individual’s imagination and the vast number of strategies they use to abdicate (pass on) responsibility for their actions. The simple truth is, cheating never has been considered acceptable, or even that cheating is OK in moderation. It is about an action and the consequence of that action. If you choose to cheat then you must be prepared to accept there will be a price to pay. Clearly, the action of cheating is a pathway that is always bumpy and will require a lot of self examination.

Which leds me to the pressing issue of how parents can manage the situation when their child is caught out cheating:

  1. How you respond will be the key to child’s decision to reform or repeat the action of cheating. SO STAY CALM!!
  2. If you already know your child has been caught cheating give them time to tell you.
  3. Provide as many opportunities as possible for your child to tell you the truth.
  4. If your child does not want to come you and lay their cards on the table, then you must go to them and discuss the matter. Do not let your child believe they have gotten away with it.
  5. Detail a very clear and affective consequence for your child’s behaviour. Simply saying “how very disappointed you are” will not be sufficient.

To conclude on a positive note, we do live in an age where cheating does have far reaching and serious outcomes, all too often public and trusted figures are caught out for cheating. However. I am of the opinion that if the consequence of the action is immediate and meaningful, the individual can make an informed decision not to engage in cheating ever again, thereby the lesson will have been learnt and wisdom gleaned!

Finally, my homily for this edition of Education Matters is:

“Education is the passport for your chosen journey through life. Make sure you get one and never ever lose it”.