The Perils of Compulsory Attendance System

attendanceLife ek race hai, tez nahi daudoge to koi tumhe kuchal kar age nikal jaega.

Remember these ‘sagacious’ words spoken by 3 Idiots’ Virus? Well, they fit very well in our faulty education system. A system that feeds young and impressionable minds the malicious idea that the defeat of others is victory for the self. A system where values, skills and the true education of a person are blatantly disregarded. A system where brilliant minds are engaged in competing with each other for higher marks rather than gaining true knowledge through cooperation. And, this kind of ideology is ingrained in our minds right from the start. The worth of a person is bluntly judged on the school report cards and the college mark sheets with the university seal on them.

You are deprived of your degree if you fail to meet the attendance criteria which is pre-decided by the college authorities. Yes! By attendance, it is meant physical presence in the class no matter what you do sitting there; yawning, sleeping, looking outside the window or just texting your friends while the lecture is on. Just sit there and you are good to go! However, if you decide not to sit in the class for an irrelevant lecture taught from a rusty, old book and instead decide to go out and explore the world, you might just be detained.

It is unerringly true that real knowledge is gained outside the realm of books. I find my work in the NGO much more rewarding than a mundane lecture. My time spent at the local blind school teaching blind students has perhaps taught me more about life than any political theory book. The sheer will to learn and the strength of personality that those blind students exude despite the obstacles faced by them have in fact made me a calmer and persistent person and I no longer refrain from working hard in order to achieve my goals. Which textbook has the ability to teach such valuable qualities which will be indispensable later in life? My college NSS workshops and volunteering opportunities are more enjoyable and enriching than sitting in the class. Not some text book but, my passion to write and my various creative writing internships have helped me garner knowledge about the affairs of the world. The people I meet and converse with through these internships have inspired me and I have had the opportunity to learn a lot from them. This is perhaps my biggest asset today.

When I look back, I realize that my overall progress and growth as a person has happened only because I decided not to attend every lecture. I was keen on exploring the world beyond books and I can proudly say that I am more aware and more confident than some of my classmates who dared not step outside the class for fear of losing those marks reserved for attendance. How significant are those marks if they turn students into dour personalities who are supposed to confine themselves in the four walls of the classroom where your creative mind is crushed and you are trained to follow orders, diktats and norms preached by the teachers.

Our education system must not confine us to the realm of books. Classroom learning and teaching must be made more interactive, enriching and interesting. This can be done with the help of research-aided teaching. For example, Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS) has laid special emphasis on field work and dissertation in its course structure which endues its students with hands–on-experience.

IIM Bangalore has decided not to make attendance compulsory stating that “at this age students are mature enough to take their own decisions on attendance”. This is in fact quite veracious. Just sitting in the classroom to fulfill particular criteria of attendance should not be the norm. In fact, teachers should make sure that their lectures are interesting enough so that students themselves feel like attending them. In my own class, students never miss a particular teacher’s lecture even though she does not give marks for attendance just because her lectures are quite interesting and captivating, whereas other lectures amount to boredom.

BITS Pilani has also been following the norm of voluntary attendance for quite some time now. Mind you, these are top notch institutes producing the best of the talents across the world! Voluntary attendance has in no way affected the quality and worth of their students.

However, there can be some students who can take undue advantage of the relaxation in attendance norms. They might just end up not doing anything. In such a scenario, the administration can work out a system where extra-curricular activities are made mandatory or are counted towards attendance. How about part time internships along side college? Or simply exploring your interests in dance or music with the help of college societies without worrying about attendance? Delhi University has taken the bold move of encouraging its students to engage in various college societies by keeping the attendance requirement at a minimum for them.

It is high time for the stringent attendance norms to be relaxed in our institutions and the system to revamped itself to make education more holistic!

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About author : Tanvi Sharma is a 2nd year B.A. (Hons), Political Science student at Gargi College, New Delhi.


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