Moving from a Cheating Culture to a Learning Culture: New RISE Indonesia Working Paper

Earlier this month, RISE Indonesia published a working paper about cheating on junior secondary exams and how computer-based testing can be used to reduce cheating. The recent paper, written by Emilie Berkhout, Menno Pradhan and colleagues, explains how the rollout of computer-based testing in Indonesia affected test score and helped the transition from a school culture focused on cheating toward one that focused on learning.

For many years, it was well-known that a large percentage of students in Indonesia were cheating on their final exams. Newspaper articles had been written on the topic, and teachers were often involved in the cheating themselves.

First, the Government tried to reduce cheating by indicating at which schools cheating occurred mostly In 2015, they developed an algorithm that searches for patterns in answer sheets, alerting the system when students from one classroom or school have the same answers, which indicates cheating. Schools then receive a number (0-100) indicating the level of cheating.

Based on this algorithm, the government discovered that 1/3 of junior secondary schools in Indonesia encountered cheating. They realized that the method of testing needed to change. With computer-based testing, the test items are drawn from a server so that each student gets a different test. After completion, the test is graded immediately by the computer. This makes it much harder to cheat, as answer sheets are useless, and teachers cannot assist all students at the same time.

After researching the education system and new algorithm, researchers of RISE Indonesia had three main conclusions. First, they discovered that when schools switched to computer-based exams, the average score dropped, especially for schools with high rates of cheating. This indicated that the new exams were really working at preventing cheating. Secondly, they found that within a single district, if some schools switched to online exams, the schools that continued to use paper exams were still less likely to cheat. This is likely due to the fact that cheating is less likely to occur when those around you are not cheating. Finally, when cheating is no longer possible, researchers concluded that after the initial drop in scores, exam scores started to improve over time. Not only did the shift to online exams increase integrity, it also helped Indonesia move from a cheating culture to a learning culture.

Blog Highlights

RISE Indonesia researchers Emilie Berkhout and Florischa Tresnatri also wrote two blogposts on the RISE Indonesia website discussing public and private school admission in Yogyakarta. Low-scoring students had to pay to go to private schools, while high-scoring students went to public schools for free. How has Yogyakarta’s school system tried to allow students to have a more equal opportunity to good education? Why don’t poorer low-scoring students choose not to go to the best public schools in Yogyakarta? To understand the answers to these difficult questions, read here: