Attendance: The Scourge of All College Students

As a college student, the biggest threat that I face in daily life (apart from the constant lack of money) is attendance shortage. Being a student in an engineering college, where, 75 per cent attendance is mandatory with classes from 8 to 5, even on Saturdays (yes people, Saturdays!) , I find myself running to and fro trying to beg teachers to give me attendance. Somehow, I refuse to accept this concept. Here is why.

India is the biggest democracy with a population over a billion. We claim to boast of at least 60 per cent literacy. It means that 60 per cent of more than a billion Indians can spell and read their name. However, a small percentage of these are actually graduates. Most Indians are +2 pass or Matric pass. And yet, in this ever changing world, they have fitted in with perfect harmony into the present scenario which requires nothing else but a +2 degree. The BPO boom is a prime example. A pass percentage in the class 12 boards,and proficiency in English, can get you get a job that pays handsomely. Hence, the percentage of people going to college is drastically reducing. The people who actually go to college are the ones who really want to pursue higher studies or want a degree which guarantees them a better job. They are going to college because they want to and not because it is compulsory. They are interested in attending classes and learning more about specialised subjects which they want to master. Hence, I feel making attendance compulsory completely nullifies this objective. I am sure none of us want to become like puppets being jerked on a string in a nameless system or become, to quote Floyd, ‘Just another brick in the wall’. Especially, when the wall contains more than a lakh of such bricks.

We all have our areas of interest and we want to explore new avenues. Must we be chained and bound and hence, forced to follow structures without even questioning anything? Agreed some subjects must be studied even if they are not part of our specialised curriculum; but is making attendance mandatory really the way to make sure we study them? Do the teachers really want to teach a class of reluctant students who are just attending the class for the sake of attendance and not with the slightest of interest in what is being taught? It must be humiliating for the teacher and is an insult to education, a slap to the face of knowledge. I firmly believe that if we must study the subject, then let us study it in our own time. I agree we must be assessed on it in the form of tests and exams, but we should be able to study for it by ourselves if we feel we are confident in it. Being college students,I believe we are mature enough to know our responsibilities. A prime example is JNU where there are no attendance requirements and yet a student is expected to earn a fixed number of credits. We can also take the example of BITS where the students are allowed to choose their own time-table and attend classes of their own free will. The students only attend the lectures that they find are interesting.

For those who believe attendance is a form of keeping tabs on a child’s performance, I would like to point out the fact that just attending classes does not necessarily mean the child is actually learning. He/she can be sleeping in a class for all you know. Even worse, the proxy system is rampant in every college and more often than not, it is very successful. It rather just proves how we Indians (as usual) are more adept at finding a way to beat the system. Finally, we hardly spend eight hours attending classes. Do the parents just want to know what the child is doing during those hours or always?

Mark Twain once claimed: ‘I have never let my schooling interfere with my education’. How very true. Education is more than a degree from an engineering college of repute and a high paying job. Education is learning till you die. Furthermore, schooling or a college education is just a part of it. Hence, we cannot claim that attending classes would make us better people. It may improve our life standards considerably, but there also have been people who have fared better than their peers holding a college degree. Albert Einstein, Bill Gates to name just a few.

I believe that material shackles like attendance should not bind our quest for knowledge. Let the child learn the way he wants to. And more importantly, what he wants to. Agreed he must be disciplined, but, not by imposing attendance requirements. Let him fend for himself and learn what is right and wrong. For, there is no better teacher than one’s own experience.

Budhadtiya Banerjee