Anam Ali, a 19-year-old university student, had just started working on a very difficult assignment, when her 12-year-old neighbour arrived.

“We’ve been given a really important assignment. I have to write a whole paper on, whether tuitions are a surefire guarantee of good grades. It’s 2000 words, and I need to give it in the day after tomorrow. Can you write it for me?” she said and then looked expectantly at Anam.

Anam was speechless.

“Firstly, I have to do my own assignments. Secondly, why can’t you write it yourself?”

“I don’t have time. We have so much homework. And I am not very good at writing either,” insisted the neighbour. “Well, alright, I’ll ask one of my cousins to write it instead.”

This scenario is, unfortunately, more common than one would like to believe. There are quite a few students, usually in their school-going age, who think that it is perfectly normal to get someone else to do their school assignments or extra curricular work. In fact, the phrase ‘do your own work’ seems quite alien to them.

In cases like these, when school-going children hand out their assignments to anyone, who is willing to do it for them, it is very important to distinguish between two things – helping someone to do a task and doing the whole task for someone else. The former, of course, is the more desirable action. And it is precisely the action, which is rarely taken.

There are many different tasks, which students delegate to others, believing themselves to be incapable of doing them. Some of these tasks include:

  • making charts,
  • making diagrams for science/ computer subjects,
  • solving mathematics sums,
  • writing essays,
  • writing speeches.

Why Students Resort to Overhelping

Even though there are quite a few students, who ask to do their work for them simply because they are too lazy to do it themselves, there are also others, for whom the reasons go beyond laziness.

The main culprit here is a lack of self-confidence and self-esteem. Many students just do not believe in themselves or their abilities. If they have a cousin, who is exceptionally good at artwork, they prefer to get their science diagrams drawn by him or her. If someone is good at mathematics, then it is always handy to get them to solve the problems and get the correct answers.

Another culprit is deeply rooted in our education system – the overemphasis on marks and grades. Thus, if the artistic cousin or a math genius neighbour can produce remarkable results, the student will end up with higher marks, higher grades and, of course, loads of positive comments from the teacher. The spirit of competitiveness combined with a lack of confidence in one’s abilities easily explain, why many students are unwilling to do their own work or put their own abilities to test. They simply do not believe they can get the required result, if they work on their own.

Yet one more culprit behind this phenomenon is again a factor characteristic of the education system in general – the emphasis on too much homework. There are many schools, where teachers give out so many homework assignments that it becomes really hard for a student to finish them on time. One can argue that this is a good way of learning time management skills. But, unfortunately, too much homework becomes a really good excuse to give out one’s work to others and get them to finish it quickly and efficiently.

Shortcomings of Overhelping

Although the end result of the work done by others may be better, there are two good reasons, why elder students, neighbours, cousins and parents should concentrate on helping their young wards without doing everything themselves or getting someone else to do it.

The first reason is to prevent a shortcut mindset. If a student knows that a cousin or a neighbour is going to write an essay for him or draw some diagrams in the science journal, it is quite likely that the student will not even try to do the same task himself. The student will be more willing just to delegate the task, irrespective of whether or not he actually has a lot of work to do.

The second reason is that such overhelping can stifle the inherent talent and abilities of the student. Maybe a student has wonderful creative writing skills. But he is consistently getting a cousin to write all his essays and papers. Meanwhile, the student also convinces himself that writing is not his forte. If the parents or siblings were helping out this young student instead of encouraging him to engage someone who would ‘write better’, it would help polish the student’s skills in that area.

Dealing with Overhelping

There are quite a few things parents can do to curb the phenomena of overhelping. A more active role of parents will go a long way in helping the students overcome the urge to get someone else to do their work.

Encourage your child to do his work by himself. Give your child the confidence that he is able to do the work by himself.

Instill in your child the value of doing his own work. Teach your child that asking someone else to do his work and then passing it off as his own is not ethical.

If the tasks are difficult, sit with your child, see what your child is doing wrong, point out the mistakes, suggest improvements and give positive feedback on successful work.

Instill time management skills in your child. If the homework pile is huge, work out how to manage it within the stipulated time and show your child how it is done.

Yes, this is a very long and tedious task, but parents have to step in and play their role, if they want their children to get out of the shortcut-taking mindset. However, if parents themselves feel it is better to get someone else to do their children’s work, then here is a friendly reminder for them: they are doing a grave disservice to their children. Such scenario is inhibiting their process of learning and unconsciously teaching them, how to dump their work on someone else. In the long-term, this mindset will have negative effects not just on their personal lives but also on their professional careers. The last thing this country needs is a bunch of people, who are incapable of doing their own work.