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The outsourcing of cheating

June 23, 2008
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In India we complain about our students cheating, but cheating is a world-wide phenomena. In fact some students acquiring question papers before the examination is not uncommon in developed countries either. The only difference is that there school and college managements are more alert, and if caught students can face stringent punishment. In Britain, there have been cases where students caught cheating have been expelled without a degree. In one such case some years ago, where an aspiring medic cheated, she was let off fairly lightly, but this provoked strong criticism in an editorial in the British Medical Journal with the demand that “Justice must be done and seen to be done”. However there were those who did not believe that the student should be humiliated or expelled. They felt that compassion should be shown, particularly as the student who cheated was an “exemplary” student and also highly intelligent. Their argument was that it wasn’t a crime that had been committed. Well, I am not sure whether one should look at the issue this way. Cheaters who get away will do it again, and the next time they do it could be in real life. They will do it because they have got away with it before. The consequences can be far greater when cheating takes places outside the confines of an academic world.

With the advent of the internet, cheating has got easier and more difficult to catch. This is what the following article will tell you about – the outsourcing of school assignments to India. The involvement of students from Britain has come to light today, but who knows how many students from other developed countries are using similar services?

Sarah Scrafford has written about this subject below (specifically for this blog). Thanks Sarah.

Graduating to Cheats

We’ve all come across our share of students who take shortcuts to complete assignments and homework, but this shortcut is probably the longest one invented so far – one that crosses seas and continents to take cheating to a whole new level. British students have been caught with their hands in the outsourcing cookie jar, using to their advantage a global phenomenon that works by paying highly-qualified personnel in developing countries to undertake domestic tasks at significantly lower costs.

This new trend, which has been christened “contract cheating”, has education specialists in the United Kingdom in a quandary – they know the crime is being committed but they’re helpless when it comes to identifying the criminals, no thanks to the anonymity offered by the Internet through fake email ids and pseudonym online accounts.

Most of the cheating is done by the information technology majors, as the art of writing programs does not involve a signature style like writing prose or text does and hence is less likely to be detected as plagiarism. They’re willing to shell out between £5 and £50 for each assignment, depending on the complexity. Businesses that set up sites to allow professionals to bid on outsourced writing and design jobs are being unwittingly used by the students for their own purposes – they post details of the task to be completed, and then choose the lowest bid submitted.

India, with its vast pool of talented and well-educated professionals who also have a good command over English, is the most preferred destination for these assignments. While outsourcing per se is not a crime, the very fact that students are cheating on their requirements for the completion of a degree speaks volumes about the standards of education. Obviously they are secure in the thought that they are never going to be caught; no one wants to risk spending money on a losing proposition.

The question that arises out of this controversy is one that deals not just with integrity but with ability too. Are the students tempted to cheat because they are unable to cope with the demands of the coursework on their own? Or is it just that they are too lazy to take the effort to do themselves what they could get done more effectively at the cost of a few pounds?

Academics in the British Isles would do well to look into this aspect even as they try to pinpoint the particular people who are involved in this scheme. If it’s laziness or a don’t care attitude, it’s not an issue of competence that’s at stake when said cheats graduate with honors that belong to the graduates of a country far, far away!

***

(The above article titled “Graduating to Cheats” has been contributed by Sarah Scrafford, who regularly writes on the topic of top accredited online university. You can contact her at her personal email address here: sarah.scrafford25(at)gmail (dot)com)

Related Reading: Posts about Higher Education in India.

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26 Comments leave one →
  1. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    June 23, 2008 7:56 am

    Nita,

    Some years ago, around the time the term “Bangalored” was entering the language) a cartoon in a US weekly had a father (white, well-to-do)telling his early teenage son in an admonishing tone: “No. You may NOT outsource your maths assignment to a BPO in India.” That cartoon turns out to have been ominously prescient.

    But this contract cheating racket, at the university level, also exposes the hypocrisy of the British higher education system. If even universities ranked amon the best in the world have to put up stalls at “Education Fairs” in the basements of hotels, sharing space with parallel events to showcase the latest in bathroom fittings or Haryana Handlooms, one begins to wonder about the aura surrounding those universities.

    On the brighter side (in an Indian perspective) this helps resolve the meaning of the term KPO, about which I have been wondering for some time now🙂 .

  2. June 23, 2008 10:24 am

    Good to see you up and blogging again! I hope you’ve recovered fully…🙂
    this post takes me back a long way, to the time when I was in college and used a variety of methods to copy answers from other kids around… In retrospect it may seem a bit of harmless fun, but it isn’t… nowadays, schools and colleges seem to have tightened their hold on this process, with rigorous checking during exams… but sadly, the punishment for being caught cheating isn’t anywhere as severe as the incident in UK.. maybe that should happen…

  3. Sakhi permalink
    June 23, 2008 12:25 pm

    welcome back nita🙂

    Some how I don’t agree to be too strict to all the students who cheat. Depending upon the offence the punishment can be laid out… but yes, educational institues need to be more vigilant.

    am i giving contrdictory statments? thats because the matter is regarding the students and not the hardcore criminals… probably!

    I think i am confused!🙂

  4. June 23, 2008 1:41 pm

    There are small institutions which charge from 10kto 50k for engineering projects and I know ppl who have cheated their way out in final year projects.
    I think it was NDTV which featured a ‘project selling ‘ racket in TN with hidden cameras.
    This is also a form of cheating right?

  5. June 23, 2008 4:56 pm

    *sigh i have never copied in my life🙂

  6. June 23, 2008 5:28 pm

    Vivek, that is an interesting and prophetic cartoon!

    Nikhil, it might surprised you to know that I didn’t miss posts last week! I did my 5, which is what I usually do every week!🙂
    And good to read your confession! I remember in college there were dudes who thought it was all a big joke, cheating I mean and well I guess that’s because they were never caught. None of them ever wanted to be caught.

    Sakhi, I know what you mean but unless there are strict repurcussions cheating will never reduce or stop. One needs to have a clean system, and for that some people need to be made an example of. However harsh and sad the punishment is, it has to send a message that the behavior cannot be tolerated. All one has to do is put oneself in the position of a hardworking student who loses a seat in an important professional course but the cheater gets it. The deserving one has to think of another profession maybe…now is it fair for the one who cheated to go on to become whoever he/she is? I don’t think so.

    Xylene, yeah, cheating has become a well organised activity because of its high demand! Anything with a demand will thrive, even if its illegal, if the law doesn’t care.

    Vishesh, I have never copied either. I prefer to fail rather than cheat.

  7. wishtobeanon permalink
    June 23, 2008 5:45 pm

    Talking about cheating, about 70% (approximately) of the students cheated during an internal assessment in one of my BE classes in India. Well, I was one of the few who never cheated. Some of the students didn’t know it was wrong to cheat.

  8. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    June 23, 2008 6:18 pm

    I remember an incident from my school days (must have been the equivalent of what is called 9th standard today. In a terminal exam, a guy copied from the one seated next to him. The examiner (the class-teacher of another section) happened to see the offender’s paper before the genuine kid’s effort and, noting the identicality of everything including errors of logic (it was in the algebra section of the maths paper) in forming equations as well as totalling errors, decided that the second boy had copied (unfortunately his handwriting was the poorer of the two) and, ironically, failed him. He also brought the matter to the principal’s notice. The principal took a serious view of the matter and sent for both the boys as well as the class teacher.

    Fortunately, the class teacher of our section was aware of the competence of each and every one of his 30 (yes, it’s unbelievable but true!) students. He produced the homework and classwork notebooks of both the students and also their class tests taken during the term, and was able to prove who the actual culprit was. The honest boy was acquitted with honour, while the actual offender got six of the best with the cane on his backside (such things were allowed then, and endorsed both by teachers and by most parents) in the presence of the entire class.

    Justice does get done sometimes, and is seen to be done. And believe me, it is quite exemplary!

  9. June 23, 2008 8:03 pm

    @Nita This outsourcing thing is smthg new I have come to know about. As for cheating in Indian colleges & schools it has attained a new height and even the good topper students dont feel guilty of doing it. U can check out my post regarding this cheating thing in engineering
    http://opinionsandexpressions.wordpress.com/2008/05/19/the-business-of-ufm/
    The management of colleges do not take action also and to tell u frankly sometimes the invigilators get instructions to overlook some particular student cuz he is somebody’s kid.

    @Xylene U will be surprised that i know few incidents where a M.Tech guide has sold project to his student for money.

    @Vivek //the class teacher of our section was aware of the competence of each and every one of his 30 (yes, it’s unbelievable but true!) students.// Its not so much unbelievable. Being a lecturer myself each semester I remember n know each of my students whom I teach and even after they have passed out from college. U can check this
    http://opinionsandexpressions.wordpress.com/2008/06/18/the-other-side-of-bench/

  10. June 23, 2008 8:03 pm

    lol same thing here,but i have seen a lot of ppl copy🙂 but to complain is to kill childhood in school….

  11. June 23, 2008 8:04 pm

    wow! and i missed it🙂 congrats on the million😀

  12. June 23, 2008 8:04 pm

    @Nita and oh congrats on crossing the 1 million hits.

  13. June 23, 2008 8:15 pm

    wishtobeanon, I’ve heard of such incidents where many cheat but luckily I’ve never seen these things myself. A few students, yes I’ve seen them!

    Vivek K, a thrashing huh. Well nowadays students are thrashed all the time and for minor things so I wonder what the punishment can be for cheating!! And btw, my class teacher was good too! We were just 35 in class. Today with 70-80 students in a class one finds that teachers find it more difficult to get to know the students.

    Reema, thanks. Will check out those links!

    Vishesh thanks for telling me🙂 I didn’t know! I sort of never looked there. Must have happened today I guess. It feels odd to see that number!!

  14. June 23, 2008 8:34 pm

    i read a year ago that it professionals seek help in completing their projects through web. but this case of outsourcing assignments is indeed new to me and quite shocking..
    50 pounds is quite a sum for people from countries like india..no wonder this is catching up at a fast pace…
    i feel the main reason is unability to cope up with the pressure but large number of people are too lazy to try it…

  15. June 23, 2008 9:24 pm

    now u know why teachers is in reality an anagram of teachers.

  16. June 23, 2008 10:26 pm

    I have heard of this concept some time back. It reminded me of the give-money-buy-science-projects scenario in India. That too is similar to cheating I think. But, then when the students are under so much pressure and expectations, can we really blame them for “not” being honest in certain areas?

  17. June 23, 2008 10:33 pm

    Another point of view could be – being satisfied at making money by doing assignments to the students at some other part of the world. What career ethics our people have!

    Destination Infinity.

  18. June 23, 2008 11:19 pm

    Also Italian students are cheating a lot, no doubt about it. Only, one of the reasons why Italian students do not outsource to developing countries is their poor knowledge of foreign languages lol.

  19. June 24, 2008 12:06 am

    Why does this not surprise me? As a student I was aware of cheaters, of the low-tech subtrefuges they resorted to in order to cheat. Pathetic really, since there is no substitute for mastery of one’s information, and knowing one accomplished a goal by dishonest means stays with one forever, whether or not some putative social gains have been made.
    I remember taking a university calculus course where the use of graphing calculators during exams was expressly forbidden. No student’s calculators wer checked by the invigilator prior to the exam. the student nearest me on my right used just such a calculator, without repercussion, and not being found breaking the rule. For certain he may have had a higher mark than me, but so what? he will forever be certain of the fact that he is a cheat and liar.
    There re so many ways to cheat, always have been, always willl be. People are people and some seek to have unfair advantage over others. G

  20. Vivek Khadpekar permalink
    June 24, 2008 12:24 am

    Reema:

    The unbelievablility I was referring to was of the number of students in my class, not of the teacher’s memory🙂

  21. Ravi permalink
    June 24, 2008 8:04 am

    Do people who outsource their assignments know that there are technical blogs owned by professors willing to give out clues to solve any hard-to-crack assignment problems?

    Once I have got help from a professor in mathematics(North carolina state University) in solving an assignment problem which is a second ordered differential equation with complex integers. I was surprised to see the responses posted on the very next day by two others besides the prof.

    A friend of mine works as a graduate assistant in the department of biology. His job is computer modelling of some complex movement of genes using java. He doesnt know java then he outsourced to his friend in hyderabad for Rs.20000/-. Its a classic example of outsourcing from an US university to a software professional in India. Wasnt that awesome?

  22. Ravi permalink
    June 24, 2008 8:06 am

    Nita

    Everyone is wishing for your speedy recovery. I m totally lost and what happened to you? How have u been? I hope u r doing alright….Take care.

    Ravi.

  23. June 24, 2008 9:06 am

    arvind, I agree that laziness is the root cause. Such people will take short-cuts throughout their life, Have you ever come across someone stealing a colleagues’ idea or taking credit for something they haven’t done? It would be interesting to ask them if they have ever cheated in school and college, and I bet they have!

    Aniche, you mean cheaters.🙂

    Amit, you are a working person. How would you feel if someone took credit for your work and got that promotion?

    Destination Infinity, well, it is possible that some people don’t know what they are doing and for what! But I agree that if you know and still do it, it’s unethical.

    Man of Roma, I’m sure students cheat all over the world. It would be interesting to find out what percentage of students cheat – would it be 50 percent or 25 percent or 10 percent! My bet is that at least 20 percent of all students cheat in some way or the other or have at some time in their life.

    suburbanlife (G), yes as long as there are avenues to cheat, people will cheat. However I am not sure whether all have a conscience. I guess the majority will feel guilty but I have seen people ready to do anything to go ahead…whether it’s stealing another’s idea or sleeping with one’s boss!! I think these people know that they are not smart enough to compete on their merit and therefore know that they only way to get ahead is to cheat.

    Ravi, thanks. btw I am not that sick! In fact even I was pleasantly surprised to see people sending their get well soon messages! I was down with a virus and was sick for about 2 days but it wasn’t anything serious! It was really sweet of everyone to wish me well, but then later I wondered whether I should have mentioned it at all as I felt I didn’t deserve their good wishes as I wasn’t that sick!!🙂

  24. June 24, 2008 5:16 pm

    colleagues taking credits for someone else’s work :O ,well i have seen that in Television not witnessed..but may be when i join corporate sector i would come across soon..
    but i find that 10 times more offendable than cheating by students….
    i was just checking the comments section when i found xylene’s comment abt projects being sold..
    well,i have just finished my final year so i would be knowing it better..the market for the this project selling is growsing very fast all over indian..
    in chennai..their are consultancies which sell project like setting stationary items..
    70 percent of the students do buy projects ..and the true but bitter thing is that even the staffs and lecturers support it
    i had done my project in a reputed govt organization ..u would be surprised that they gave me and my partner A and B grades respectively and many of those who bought projects got S grades which is the best grades..
    2 reasons i found why student prefer to buy [project was =
    1. many people are too lazy and paying 10k rupees could let them rest during the project time..
    2 .many colleges dont have proper guides who could help students to implement their ideas..one of ,my best friends has a lot of new and motivational ideas but no one was ready to help he too ended up buying a project

    arvind, thanks. this taking credit for someone else’s work has happened to me, not once, but thrice!🙂 That is because I am bubbling with ideas and a very open person! I learnt the hard way to keep my mouth shut at work!🙂 You are right – it’s horrible to have it happen. It leaves a very bitter taste in the mouth. And it looks like this selling projects business is a very very brisk business. It should be banned. – Nita.

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