SINGAPORE - More tertiary students are turning to popular paid services costing as little as $45 to get their essay assignments and exam projects done for them by other people.

Checks by The Straits Times found that these services are easily available on online platforms like Facebook and Carousell, and also offered by fellow students in universities and polytechnics for a fee.

For instance, a student who did not wish to be named for fear of punishment said he had paid a fellow student $50 to complete a compulsory computer coding assignment for him.

He said: "I didn't have a choice. Halfway through the module, I realised I didn't understand most of what was going on. If I didn't get someone to do it for me, I would have failed."

He also paid the same student $80 to complete his online coding exam for him. "It was a relief the exam was online due to Covid-19. I felt a bit guilty at first, but the need to pass this module quickly overwhelmed any guilt I had."

The Education Ministry, in response to queries, said it takes a serious view of dishonesty among students. It added that all forms of academic fraud, including ghost writing and contract cheating, where students get academic work completed on their behalf by a third party, are strictly prohibited.

Offenders will be subject to disciplinary action, which may include expulsion, MOE said.

"Education institutions rely on a mix of assessment methods in order to ensure that a student's grade is truly reflective of their own efforts," it added.

This can include more traditional assessment in the form of examinations, where the assessment conditions are designed to prevent cheating.

Some universities, like Nanyang Technological University and National University of Singapore, employ software to detect plagiarism in assignments. Students have to run completed essays through the checker called Turnitin before submission.

When asked, students said they were not worried about their essays being detected for plagiarism as the work they paid for had been "written from scr...