Plagiarism plagues universities and academic journals all over the world - and Hong Kong is no exception. The South China Morning Post reported last week that there are now services here which offer to write undergraduate and even postgraduate essay papers for students. Advertisements for such services do not even attempt to disguise the nature of the service, making it clear that essay answers for various university levels will be written for a fee. Not only is there the obvious element of dishonesty, but this plagiarism industry reveals a cynical view of education as merely a means to an end, and that so long as the relevant degree or certificate can be obtained, it does not matter how it was obtained. It shows that the value of some initials along with one's name on a business card referencing a particular university is more valuable than the learning experience itself.
Sadly, this view of education is widespread. To a certain extent, it has been encouraged by government language describing education as a 'pillar industry' that can boost the local economy, as suggested by the administration following the financial downturn in 2009. The boosting of the economy by selling educational services is not education - it is a commercial activity. Education itself boosts the economy by teaching students to relish disciplined study and methodical research and to find creative solutions. Clearly, it is in the interest of universities to crack down on academic dishonesty, for the reputation of the university is tarnished when employers find their graduates do not have the discipline to work independently. But writing-for-hire services only supply a demand. To its credit, the government has implemented education reforms which will hopefully reinforce the value of learning instead of glorifying the value of some initials.
Meanwhile, those who think they have gained by using such services are wrong. There is no substitute for researching a topic, analysing the facts, and structuring your arguments in a presentable fashion in a properly referenced paper. Cheats may have bought a degree, but they will not have bought themselves a real education.