Cheating in the Education Industry: Let Me Count the Ways!


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Here’s another one to add to my long and ever-growing list.  It’s a variation on the theme of the classic dog and pony show that so many education fairs are these days.  

As a fair organizer, do you want to guarantee a certain number of students at your events?  Don’t go the route of ethical marketing and promotion with the goal of organic and quality attendance.  That’s unpredictable and for losers.  You don’t want to be sweating bullets moments before the event doors open.  If you want a sure thing, there are several tried-and-true ways of doing it, several of which I’ve written about in previous posts and articles.  To recap, here they are:  

  1.  Bus them in, regardless of their qualifications, interests, goals, and their parents’ ability to pay.  Warm bodies make for good photo-ops and impress some of the (more inexperienced) representatives.  I recently heard from a colleague who attended one such fair.  He said there were a lot of 8th graders wearing the same school uniform.  Bingo!  
  2. Hire a service that employs faux students and pay a certain amount of money to guarantee a certain number of attendees.  (There’s something for everyone in Viet Nam’s relatively new free market economy.)  Marketing dollars well spent!  
  3. Pay students who “bring a friend” essentially a finder’s fee, thereby doubling or tripling the fun.  Great ROI!  

#4 is a new one and a variation on #3.  Are you ready?  🙂  

Since most fairs have student volunteers to assist colleagues with translation and contact information collection, offer a cash reward for each additional young person, student or not, they bring to the event.  It beats the expensive cost of traditional and digital marketing.  Genius!  

Seriously, though, I’ve been around the professional block a few times and am still amazed at how many companies have jumped on this particular cheating bandwagon, including some that pay lip service to ethical business practices and have some kind of external stamp of approval, for what that’s worth.  (Not much, actually, but that’s another post or article.  Start with this one, if you’re interested.)  

One company, for example, offers 100,000 VND for four (4) students, which amounts to $4.30 or $1.08 per referral, rounded up.  Too cheap!  Give those poor volunteers a salary increase!  More money equals more warm bodies!  What’s not to like?!?  😉

Probably after checking out the competition, another one, wink, nod, decides to be more “generous” and pays 50,000 VND ($2.15) per student.  400 “students” will cost you a paltry $860.  Given the high cost of digital and many kinds of offline marketing these days in Viet Nam, that’s a bargain!  Since the name of the game is short-term profit, the more, the merrier (say it with me!), this will help you fatten the all-important bottom line!  

If you’re a money-minded student, which company do you want to “volunteer” for?  To paraphrase Karl Marx, you sell your labor to the highest bidder.  Forget about quality – it’s all about the numbers.  Inflate event attendance by essentially bribing students to attend.  Look, Ma, we had 400 people at our fair!, don’t mind the obvious and distressing fact that the majority were paid attendees aka essentially actors without an audition.  

Of Dogs & Fleas

Shame on people who have no qualms about cutting ethical corners.  These are the kind of people that – after meeting with them – you feel the immediate need to wash your hands, maybe even take a shower and, in extreme cases, to delouse.  Perhaps worst of all, they set a bad example for Viet Nam’s younger generation by reinforcing the notion that the means justify the ends.  Cheating is acceptable.  Go for it!  Look at us and, in some cases, US(A)!  

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Image courtesy of THE PINK ELEPHANT ROOM

This is yet another example of corruption in the education industry.    It reminds me of a saying attributed to Benjamin Franklin’s Poor Richard’s AlmanackIf you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.   (Latin:  Qui cum canibus concumbunt cum pulicibus surgent.)

What a misuse of creativity.  It also reminds me a little of the idiom Necessity is the mother of invention, except you can substitute necessity with cheating.  As always, success – at all costs – in this case, as measured by the total number of participants, without integrity is failure.  

The Buddha’s Fifth Remembrance applies to all of us:  My actions are my only true belongings. I cannot escape the consequences of my actions. My actions are the ground on which I stand.  How solid is the moral and ethical ground upon which these scoundrels stand?  (The answer in your interior monologue likely conjures up images of sand, quicksand, or something equally unstable.)  

Shalom (שלום), MAA

Postscript:  If you’re reading this and you work for a company that plays one or more of these games, then the shoe definitely fits.  Wear it but definitely not with pride!