Before online classes even started, I had already offered my services for academic submissions—I answered exams, wrote essays, edited a thesis, and so on. I contacted my high school classmates who got into expensive, private universities and asked them if they knew anybody who needed “help” with schoolwork in the hopes of making some extra cash for daily expenses. In just one evening, I had five customers who readily gave me the rubrics, instructions, and their initial ideas for an assignment I was now being paid to finish. Word spread quickly about this underground operative, “may taga-UP na nagpapa-commission ng assignment…mura lang at quality pa!” These testimonials turned into regular clients, and our network of cheaters grew. When one of my “regulars” asked me to write their thesis from scratch, I declined and quit full-stop.
I wasn’t the only one offering these services though, and it wouldn’t have been hard for the student to find someone else to help them. There are Facebook groups that serve as a trade market for those looking for and offering academic commissions, as well as pages categorized as a “small business” or a “Tutor/Teacher” where students offer their services for a fixed price—guaranteed output in 24 hours, one of these pages would say. They would also occasionally put together a neat collage of customer testimonials.
Unsurprisingly, these academic commissions grew exponentially two years into distance learning, where the quantity of submissions are high and avenues for engaged learning are low. Only recently, these services reached national attention after a teacher discovered this trade. Although met with mixed opinions, there seems to be a consensus as to why students on both ends do this: for paying students, the workload is too much or too difficult to accomplish; for sellers, the pandemic has caused severe financial strain. There was too much work to be done, and not enough resources to complete it, not enough people who would listen and help.
Since the start of the pandemic, DepEd has so far declined all requests for a genuine academic ease. Instead, they were quick to push for a distance learning set up. They were quick to give how-to-guidelines to “adjust tasks” for blended learning. They were also quick to accuse teachers of incompetence when course guides and revised curricula weren’t submitted on time. They were quick to blame students for laziness and dishonesty for incomplete submissions and cheating. DepEd played the blameless victim while refusing to listen to student and teacher demands. We were urged to continue business-as-usual, to produce graduates ready for the workforce.
A corrupt system corrupts its individuals. If the education system wants only to produce paper-churning machines that can be sold quickly and in pre-wrapped packages to the labor market, then students will adapt as robots for sale rather than as humans with integrity, intellect, and a passion for what they’re learning. The primary goal becomes a word count, an uno grade, or a university ranking. Our holistic and intellectual well-being pushed to the sidelines, as a non-priority. [P]
graphics by Aynrand Galicia