Singaporean students ‘most honest’ among anglophone peers

Half of respondents to survey admit cheating overall, but only 21 per cent of students from Singapore own up

November 14, 2021
Source: iStock

Students in Singapore cheat far less than their counterparts in UK, the US and Australia, a survey suggests.

Singaporean students were half as likely to turn to dishonest means compared with the average among students in several Western countries, according to a survey of more than 2,500 of them that was based on self-reported information.

Forty-nine per cent of respondents in the countries studied – which included Singapore, Australia, Canada, Ireland, the UK and US – reported cheating at least once in their studies.

Of them, more than 28 per cent said that they had cheated multiple times during the past academic year. US students were most likely to have done so, with nearly 60 per cent of them admitting that they had cheated at least once during their studies.

By contrast, only 21 per cent of students in Singapore reported having cheated on a test. While the study authors noted that the difference between the remaining Western nations was “not substantial”, they said “Singapore showed a rather strong deviation”.

Will Hjort, chief marketing and communications officer at, who led the team that conducted the study, called its findings “very unexpected”.

While he said the team couldn’t confirm whether Singapore was an outlier among Asian nations, given that they only conducted the study on anglophone countries, there could be numerous cultural reasons for greater honesty among students there.

“We know that Asian children in general are more pushed to perform better, not just to do well but simply be the best – so maybe those students have more pressure from parents and society [and] they just want to perform well,” he said.

Fear of getting found out could be a motivating factor in keeping students honest, he suggested. “If someone notices, that’s a huge hit on their reputation.”

The country’s low tolerance for corruption could also play a role, Mr Hjort conceded, although he noted that the study included both born-and-bred Singaporeans as well as international students living there.

“I think punishment for academic dishonesty is a bit [harsher] in Singapore versus places like the US,” he said, noting that American students might get off with a warning for cheating on an exam, whereas the same infraction could get a Singaporean student expelled.

Mr Hjort said that, while the study findings published by the team did not include individual anecdotes, in written responses, several students hinted at factors that motivated them to cheat, with the main reason mentioned being lack of time to study or devote to writing papers.

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Reader's comments (2)

I think even in quick overviews like this, it should be mentioned if and how the study was checked for likelihood of accuracy as a reflection of a 'real' position. Self-reportage and opt-in/opt-out methodologies sometimes produce statistics that turn out to predict well the outcomes of future larger validated surveys, but often they do not. Gilding one's own lily is not uncommon even in anonymised surveys. In addition, an attraction to members of some group, on the one hand, to participate in a survey and, on the other hand, the effect for another group of 'can't be bothered/doesn't concern me' inertia, favouring a decline in participation, can introduce bias and hence inaccuracy in the results. And these push and pull factors may not be identical in all nations and in all contexts.
According to the study, the countries that lied the most were: 1. USA 2. CANADA 3. AUSTRALIA 4. UK 5. IRELAND 6. SINGAPORE