By Sidney Kawimbe
Some students make a game of staying one step ahead of “the system”. In the 21st century, the really clever cheats are not plagiarizing because there are now various soft-wares available to detect plagiarism such as Turnitin, Rubrics etc. These cheats are outsourcing their assignments and course work. It is like getting your father, mother or best friend to do your homework for you, except that it is for commercial purposes this time around. Assignments usually take the form of written pieces of work that are set by the lecturers. They also usually take the form of written pieces of work that are set by lecturers, and which require extensive research, referencing and sticking to some rigour of professional and academic writing without personalizing issues. They also usually contribute towards the student’s final mark or grade. Assignments at professional and tertiary levels can be quite demanding and will certainly require careful management of time and effort.
In this disposition, I will expend my energies on contract cheating or better known as outsourcing. The trend of students outsourcing their assignments and course work is on the upswing. In a survey conducted by the Josephson Institute Centre for Youth Ethics (2014) where 43,000 participated, 64% students admitted to cheating. Make no mistake, in Zambia; the perception by industry experts is that the vice is rampant. They also usually contribute towards the student’s final mark or grade in form of continuous assessment (CA). Assignments at professional level can be demanding and will certainly require careful management of time.
“I am overwhelmed by the workload at the office such that I cannot really concentrate and write my assignments. I knock off late, and by the time I reach home, I am so exhausted. The situation is compounded further by my hubby who needs attention. I do receive reports from back home in the village, and by the time I settle down, it is almost midnight. Is it possible that you can help me with my assignment at a fee?? Please, please, help me. The assignment is due in two days’ time,” lamented Mutwewansofu.
Simple economics shows that the student benefits from outsourcing his or her paper. The outsourced contractor to whom the paper is outsourced benefits, as she/he is making a decent wage (tax free) in comparison to whatever he or she might earn in a comparable time period. Who loses? Well, the student loses out on the opportunity to learn writing techniques and skills involved in writing an assignment. But mostly, it is the current academic system and those who work in it who lose. The ideals that the tertiary institutions hold regarding ethics, integrity and academic rigour and honour are thrown out of the window.
Once the student has established a relationship with his outsourced writer, he can contract the same academic-on-demand to write all his papers for the same course, thus ensuring that there is consistency in the tone, writing style and research skills of all his assignments.
My guess is that academic papers will become a thing of the past. Only those who sincerely enjoy writing and the process of learning will be encouraged — or perhaps even allowed — to graduate. In many advanced countries like Russia and Germany, degree exams are oral or viva voce to obviate the issues of plagiarism. Rather than demanding that students produce papers for marks, universities may reserve the right to teach advanced writing skills to those who are willing to commit to and engage in the entire process. However, all is not lost by the diligent and conscientious students because they can use their acquired skills to enhance their careers and earn a living.
The question isn’t, “How do universities and colleges stop students from plagiarizing or outsourcing?” but rather, “How do colleges and universities teach students the value, joy, and benefit of learning for themselves?”
The Author is a Lecturer in Finance at ZCAS
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