Copy and pasteKhaniya as TU-VC highlights how lightly academic credentials are taken in Nepal
In 2012, Fareed Zakaria, a Time magazine columnist and CNN anchor, was accused of copying a paragraph from an article on gun control published in The New Yorker. What followed was an uproar in the media, an apology from Zakaria and a one month suspension of the columnist by the Time. The following year, German Education Minister Annette Schavan resigned four days after the University of Düsseldorf revoked her PhD over allegations that she had copied parts of it. Meanwhile in Nepal, Prime Minister Sushil Koirala recently appointed a Professor of English Education accused of plagiarism, Tirtha Raj Khaniya, as the new Vice Chancellor (VC) of Tribhuvan University (TU).
Back in 2006, Khaniya published an article titled ‘Use of Authentic Materials in EFL Classrooms’ in the Journal of Nepal English Language Teachers’ Association (NELTA), Vol 11, No 1-2. Two lines in the second paragraph of Khaniya’s article read: “...Most of the teachers throughout the world would agree that authentic texts or materials are beneficial to the language learning process. However, the issues like when authentic materials should be introduced and how they should be used in an EFL classroom are debatable.” The lines bear an unmistakable resemblance to sentences in the article ‘Authentic Materials and Cultural Content in EFL Classrooms’ by Ferit Kilickaya, published in The Internet TESL Journal (Vol. X, No. 7, July 2004). Kilickaya writes, “Most of the teachers throughout the world agree that authentic texts or materials are
beneficial to the language learning process, but what is less agreed is when authentic materials should be introduced and how they should be used in an EFL classroom.” Worse, Khaniya’s conclusion is a verbatim copy of Kilickaya’s. Yet, nowhere does Khaniya attribute the text to Kilickaya.
Sadly, plagiarism is not even considered an issue in Nepal. At schools, young children are encouraged to memorise prescribed texts and rewarded for their ability to write them verbatim in their tests. Critical engagement with the text is neither taught nor encouraged. This persists all the way up to the university-level, where degrees are obtained by regurgitating guidebooks. Thus, examination centres littered with torn pages of textbooks and ‘guess papers’ are a common sight.
Nonetheless, if the academic integrity of Nepal’s
universities is to be maintained, such practices must be challenged. First and foremost, the government
should reconsider its decision of appointing Khaniya as VC of TU and find a replacement. Furthermore,
there is a need for the academic community to actively protest this move and the overall politicisation of higher-level education in Nepal—Khaniya is reportedly close to the Nepal Congress, which nominated
him. Student unions should also take up this issue as this is linked with the future of the students from all over the country who study at TU. For, if a man accused of crude plagiarism is to head the TU, what hope is there for this institution?