Education Inc. - Fake it to make it?

Education Inc. - Fake it to make it?
A degree scroll from Ashwood University. Ashwood is one of the many degree mills on the internet that issue fake degrees for a price.

We've all faked it.

Whether once or twice or a few dozen times - be it through forced smiles or forged signatures, replicated art pieces or plagiarised papers, fake IDs or fake orgasms - we have all faked our way through social occasions, conversations, professional ladders and - if one can bring an honest admission of ribaldry here - sexual situations, where faking it is a lot more helpful than making it.

And, if anyone tells you they have never faked anything in the pure journey that is their saintly life, they're lying through their teeth.

Faking a degree is altogether different business.

Recently, in Pakistan, a detailed report written by The New York Times Pakistan Bureau Chief Declan Walsh claimed how local IT company Axact allegedly earned millions of dollars from scams involving fake degrees, non-existent online universities and manipulation of customers.

In an official statement on its website, Axact has denied all the allegations. At this stage, this perhaps may not be sufficient.

The company is yet to present more concrete evidence to establish that it is not involved in any wrong doing.

The conventional way of looking at fake degrees frames it as a moral dilemma based in a black and white binary of good versus bad, devoid of the murky grey area that forces one to confront the more contradictory and less pleasant aspects of power, education and society.

We fake it because more often than not, it's the only way to make it. This isn't a stamp of approval on what goes in life by those who counterfeit, forge, replicate, lie, deceive and manipulate others; this is simply showing why one (or many) fakes it to climb up the ladder in life.

And, it has a lot to do with economics.

To understand the robust economy of the fake certificate, diploma and degree mills out in world - not just in Pakistan - one should take a trip back to 2005, when scholars began writing about the systematic problem that plagued the world of higher education.

In one such example, Allen Ezell and John Bear's expose named "Degree Mills: The Billion-Dollar Industry That Has Sold Over a Million Fake Diplomas" discusses how at least 300 degree mills on the internet have sold thousands and thousands of fake degrees on a weekly basis to Americans within the country, as well as others abroad, including medical and law degrees, since the 1980s.

Other examples also include disturbing revelations from 1986 when more than 5,000 fake doctors were practicing in the United States, directly putting the lives of thousands of patients on the line.

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