The jugaad of compulsory attendance!

“You cannot take the exam as you do not have 80% attendance!”

“Aye, tune proxy lagayi na aaj?”

Attendance and our obsession with it are world-famous and today that is what we are going to talk about.

A while ago, I was at an alumni function of a reputed university. The function was a standard affair with parents and some students as audience seated in a hall and lots of speakers talking about how their university has progressed over the years. The underlying theme was outcomes-based learning. Each speaker spoke about how they were emphasizing on outcomes and hence teaching better.

I was happy to know this because the same university had a reputation for being attendance-obsessed. So I spoke to a student in the audience and asked if they had abolished or at least decreased the 80% attendance that was compulsory for any student. The student nodded vigorously and said it’s not 80%, now it is 90%! And I froze.  90% attendance and that too compulsory?!

This too for college students who even the Govt recognizes as adults, adults who can vote and elect a govt are not allowed to choose whether or not they want to attend a lecture. The sad part is, most parents love this. They believe such colleges make for better marks and better jobs! Most professors love this because they believe having students physically present automatically translates into learning. However, the sad truth is far from it. When adults are treated like this it creates a major crisis as they grow up.

Listen to Julie Lythcott’s amazing TED talk to understand how over-caring kills the agency of the child.

I did my bachelors in India and while topped the college my focus was on managing my attendance and proxies rather than knowledge. Except for a couple of professors’ most lectures were definitely not something I looked forward to. Then I went abroad for my Masters and nobody cared about attendance but I made it a point I attended all my course lectures for two simple reason – if I didn’t I would not be able to make sense of the coursework. It was not possible to copy notes and pass!

Secondly, the lectures were interesting. It was worth spending that time there.  

Now, don’t you think it makes sense for schools and especially institutes of higher education to move away from focusing on attendance and start focusing genuinely on outcomes? With information being democratically available, let the student decide how he/she wants to learn. Let us create tests that truly measure learning rather than cramming.

What are your views on compulsory attendance? Have participated in the scam of proxies? Please share your views and don’t forget to subscribe to the youtube channel and follow me on Instagram.

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