The first day of undergraduate studies marks a milestone in every individual’s life because we begin to assume the role of an adult. A common advice given to a fresher by faculties is to work on having the mindset to get things done not just on time but in the right way too. It is considered to be a chance to start over- become more serious and dedicated than before because this is that stage of life when our personalities can be molded into something else entirely.
As the degree progresses, regardless of the school of discipline, the journey gets more demanding and rigorous. While some students can rise above and handle this growing pressure, others turn to their peers for help. Providing tuition to struggling classmates has been around for a long time. However, recently the definition of ‘help’ has been modified.
It is called ‘assignment aid’. This is a service provided by individuals or groups, to those students who do not want to or believe that they cannot do a particular assignment, in exchange for money. However big or small the work is, if the price can be paid by the students in distress, these service providers will deliver.
Whether the assignment is a small one or the project report that carries 30-40 % of the grade, these service providers take on all of the work as long as the student is willing to pay the price. They cover a wide range of work starting from one-page long essays to presentation slides to project reports. While the regular customers can negotiate, the price of each assignment varies depending on the course material, the difficulty level and the date of delivery.
To think this is only a Bangladeshi phenomenon will be wrong. These services have been around for a long time. M Ferdous, who requested anonymity, used to do assignments for his friends back in the year 2000 during his undergraduate years in a university in the USA.
‘Most students start providing tuition and assignment aid in order to help themselves financially. While this is a means of earning some extra pocket money for some students, it is also a way to loosen the financial constraint for others,’ he says.
The evolution of this practice is one that should not be treated as a trifle matter. If a decade ago there was one student doing one assignment per month for a friend, today it is a group of individuals specialising in different schools of discipline and universities and doing assignments for hundreds of students.
‘NSU Tuition Community’ is one of the most popular service providers for students of North South University, who are using the name of the university without authorisation. While similar but smaller groups stick to doing regular assignments and project reports, ‘NSU Tuition Community’ also does internship reports and research papers. For the research paper, however, they want to hear a brief of the topic and only then they decide whether to take on that work or not because they do not want to give their word and then fall short in keeping their end of the deal, which is bad for business.
‘IUB Assignment Solution’, like many others of its sort, has a Facebook page and keeps it regularly updated too. This caters to the needs of undergraduate students of Independent University, Bangladesh. Through the Facebook page, students themselves seek out similar assignments from their peers who have done them in the past. Assignments, project reports, and presentation slides are some of the popular items sought.
Some engineering students at American International University- Bangladesh (AIUB) also reach out to these groups for their final year projects. These carry a huge portion of the grade and so quality is paramount. A recent AIUB graduate informed Dhaka Courier that two groups or entities that are known as ‘Sastron’ and ‘Error Lab’, are very popular for final year projects. Most students opt for Sastron as Error Lab tends to charge a very high price that most students do not think is justified. As of writing this, Error Lab has a Facebook page as well.
Apart from the aforementioned entities that are dedicated to providing service to students of particular institutions, there are also websites that operate on such a large scale that they offer all kinds of assignments of all universities. Some of the most popular options include: Assignment Helpers Bd, myassignmentbd.com, Assignment Point and Quick Assignment Solution BD.
When speaking to a graduate from Institute of Business Administration (IBA) of University of Dhaka, it was found out that things work a little differently at IBA. Seeking anonymity he says, ‘We don’t have groups but seniors often approach juniors to do their assignments for them. A friend of mine once did an internship report for Tk 10,000. I was also asked to do an internship report once but I passed the offer because it is just so much work!’
Nilkhet is known to be a book lovers’ heaven in Dhaka city. The book stores at Nilkhet have a large collection of novels and the required texts for almost any course covered in any university. What strikes as interesting is that many stores also sell ‘ready-made’ assignments in Nilkhet area.
A lecturer from IUB, who requested anonymity, emphasises the need to address this rapidly growing issue immediately. He says, ‘Education is supposed to be the backbone of a nation and it is unfortunate that this is what the system is reducing to. I think most teachers are aware of this happening and it is so widespread that even school students are taking part in this. We need to come together because it is an insult to teachers and unfair to the honest, hardworking students.’
Narmin Tartila Banu, a lecturer of the Department of Marketing and International Business, North South University, frowns upon this widespread practice at universities. ‘This is nothing less than cheating and I will give an “F” to any student if I catch them in the act! It is absolutely unacceptable that the leaders of tomorrow opt for this because it is morally wrong. These students are bound to have a very flawed work ethic when they step into the real world,’ she asserts.
Students are trained from a tender age to become responsible and hardworking individuals. While the competition is getting fiercer with time, cheating is still not a valid alternative.
Alif Islam, a fourth year student from BRAC University, reaches out to these websites or individuals when the stress level hits a peak during the semester. ‘I understand it is not ethical but there are so many assignments to do and if I get a capable student to do an assignment for me sometimes, who is it harming?’ he argues.
Another student from London School of Commerce shares the frustration that he had to deal with when he asked a classmate to do his assignment in exchange for money. ‘He asked me to send him the money via bKash on the first day and said I will get the assignment completed in a week’s time. However, two days prior to the delivery date, he stopped answering his phone and wouldn’t reply to my messages either! After finally being able to reach him and a heated argument, I got my assignment just in time to submit it. To be honest, I don’t think the cheap rate was worth the headache I endured,’ he says.
Young adults are expected to learn to differentiate between right and wrong. Some common teachings are shared universally and avoiding cheating of any sorts is one of them. How long will these students get away with taking the easy way out? This shows that some students are just willing to buy a certificate, but not learn anything. Clearly, this not only compromises the integrity of the students but also puts to question their quality as professionals.