Frank Furedi has an article on plagiarism and cheating in universities and schools.
His basic thesis is that parents have 'institutionalised' plagiarism and cheating. It's a nice idea but I'm unconvinced.
The problem is that plagiarism comes about, in my experience, from a lack of skills. I've actually had difficulty finding source material to read for essays. I can't find essays to plagiarise because the material isn't there! That's after Googling, checking both the academic libraries I use, and often the British Library also.
Would I plagiarise if I could? No. It's wrong to do so. Could I plagiarise if I wanted to? Occasionally, but it wouldn't actually answer the question set.
Schools do not teach critical reading skills, academic essay writing, footnoting and bibliography writing. All of these are necessary for university - and all are skills (not particularly difficult) I have taught myself because nobody else wanted to.
The government currently uses the Key Skills Qualification as remedial education for 16-18 year olds to make up for the failures of their GCSE educations. The government are playing a game where they say that vocational qualifications are equivalent to academic qualifications.
The point that Furedi makes about parents being outsourced teachers is interesting. "Outsourcing" is the word I would use, but I would switch the direction. We've been teaching our own for a long time, and often parents can do it a lot better than qualified teachers. And there are benefits (downsides also: raising them to be ideological and philosophical clones is hardly an advantage). We've outsourced our teaching to the government, and they've done a poor job handling the responsibility.
Every few years, the government change everything. I'm a year younger than the folks who got the full brunt of reform. My friend Dan got everything - the introduction of Sats, Key Stages (later Assessment Stages or some other newspeak), CATs (which are a bit like an IQ test merged with American style SAT exams), the introduction of National Records of Achievements (quickly rescinded in our area, then brought back in, causing numerous headaches as the students moved from primary to secondary school), fiddled with GNVQ's and, finally, got the full meddlesome reform-for-the-sake-of-reform that was "Curriculum 2000" (turning A-levels in to AS/A2 levels, quadrupling the number of exams taken in the Sixth Form, introducing the ridiculously ill thought out Key Skills Qualification).
So, not only are today's twenty-two years olds educational refugees in a land of constantly rebranded and relaunched acronyms, now they are finishing university only for their parents to find out their younger sibling is starting university with three times the financial burden.
What the government could do to fix the education system is to leave it alone for awhile. They've spent so long playing with it, rejigging it and pulling letters out of the Scrabble bag to name new qualifications, might it actually be time just to sit back and see whether or not it actually works?
All of these issues come from a government more interested in shouting out big new ideas than thinking of actual good ideas. How exactly does teaching mathematics suited to twelve year olds to seventeen year olds who've already passed their maths GCSEs benefit them?
Similarly, look at school libraries. They are chronically resource-less. Between 1996 and 2003, my old school library halved the number of books they had, and halved the quality (they had a whole shelf of celebrity picture books prominently displayed on my departure - hardly a "independent learning resources centre").
On the bright side, all of this will be irrelevant in a few years. Academic overachievers will be shipped off to either America or some "fag" country like France where they care about poetry and philosophy. The rest will sit back and enjoy the vomit running through the streets. I'm saving up for my plane ticket... ";->"