Minimum Attendance in College: The Need Or The Lack Thereof For the Archaic System

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“Bro, please take care of my proxy.” Just how many times have we heard this one statement in the short tenure of our college lives- sometimes from our friends’ mouths, other times from our own. But regardless of whether it’s the ethical thing to do or not, the one aspect worth really pondering over is how the need for covering the ‘minimum attendance mark’ takes up a hefty lot of our effort and energy, something we could’ve used for a more constructive exercise such as, say for instance…attending classes because we want to.

In the recent wake of the Sushant Rohilla incident, the debate surrounding the need for doing away with the minimum attendance percentage gained momentum and once again, we were left with varying perspectives on the matter. Several colleges such as the Indian Institute of Technology Madras and Christ University have a minimum attendance requirement of 85 percent. These are rather bizarre standards set by the college authorities. Many students find it difficult to give substantial time to develop their passions or extra-curricular interests and that can prove to be very dangerous for a young, growing mind in search of ambition.

However, on the flip side, one may argue, that minimum attendance is crucial for teachers and students to get acquainted with each other and develop a rapport that goes beyond the otherwise rigid student-teacher relationship.
Secondly, it’s a well-known fact that teachers tend to rely a lot on the student feedback in order to enhance their teaching methods. Even those teachers who don’t pay too much heed to it are now being compelled to take it seriously since student feedback is increasingly becoming institutionalized. It is pivotal for the appointment/promotion of the teacher. If there is no minimum attendance, a lot of the students filling the evaluation forms wouldn’t be basing it on their personal experience but more often than not, on hearsay and general perception. This will be extremely unfair to both the teachers as well the students and in all probability, end up ruining quality education.

Supurna Dasgupta, who is an Assistant Professor of English Literature in DU makes a very pertinent point specific to the University, “Most of us teachers have gone through the annual mode of examination where the classroom was a lot more fun than what it is now. In the annual mode, there was more time to stretch and contemplate over complex issues without any worries about the syllabus. That made most of us attend most of the classes: very few people ended up missing the minimum attendance mark. Irrespective, there was always time for everyone to catch up with the coursework, either from one’s peergroup or one’s teachers. On the other hand, with Semester system (and now with CBCS) the syllabus remains the same amount but the time to teach it has been effectively halved.

“Classes are a lot less fun no matter how great the teacher. But also, now those students who do not attend classes for whatever reasons, also do not have any time to meet peergroups and teachers in order to make up for the lost time”, she added.

There are many who also argue that the stress on minimum attendance might just prove to do wonders for the students who’d rather never attend college as it’ll force them to take that one class that may open doors for them they never knew even existed.

The point, however, remains that college is that one phase of life wherein you widen your horizons, broaden your portfolio and aren’t, or at least shouldn’t be scared of taking risks. But how much of it is possible if the minimum attendance mark is as high as 85 percent? How much time, energy, stamina will the student be left with to take up anything else?

Maybe the one solution can be to do away with awfully high minimum attendance requirements and keep the mark reasonable enough for students to be more than just  lackadaisical figures sitting in the classroom.
As for those who took admission via ECA (Extra-Curricular Activities), maybe the less far-fetched thing to do would be to bat for separate ECA slots within the timetable instead of batting for the complete termination of the attendance system altogether.

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