In February 2016, JNU witnessed several protests where “anti-India” slogans were raised. Two years later, in 2018, JNU is experiencing demonstrations all over again but for a different reason. On December 22, 2017, the Jawaharlal Nehru University Vice-Chancellor issued a circular making 75 per cent attendance compulsory for all students, including those pursuing M.Phil and Ph.D.
Based on the recommendation of the attendance committee, the circular was introduced as undergraduate students weren’t attending classes. The circular also said that if one fails to maintain minimum 75 per cent attendance, they would be barred from enrolling into the following semester. Violators will not be entitled to their fellowships, hostels or any other facilities from the university. Student bodies and even professors are opposed the attendance circular.
We talk to social thinkers and prominent professors if a minimum attendance is necessary in any way for academic excellence, and if adults need to be disciplined in such a manner.
‘such a rule will make students more disciplined’
The rule of 75 per cent minimum attendance has been for a long time now. The concept of condonation says that student needs only 65 per cent of attendance and the remaining 10 per cent of attendance will be let off (adjusted) by attracting penalty from the student. So even the rule says 75 per cent, the students target only 65 per cent.
Although the students are adults, I believe it is mandatory to have 75 per cent of attendance because such a rule will make students more disciplined. Otherwise, their academic career will be hampered. I think 75 per cent is reasonable. But if a student fails to put up even 65 per cent, we detain them and not allow him to continue further for his semester. We have detained several students who have failed to meet the minimum level of attendance.
Prof. Bekkam Venkateswara Rao, Ph.D., Director, JNTU Institute of Science and Technology
‘Teachers took a mental note of our presence and absence’
As an alumna of JNU, I used to attend classes as and when I liked. Of course, attendance was not compulsory, but there was an unwritten rule that students who attended the classes regularly, almost always, scored better marks.
Attendance was a system done away within bureaucratic form but the teachers took a mental note of our presence and absence. Now I teach in a system, where students have to attend 80 per cent classes to write their examinations. Though as teachers, we get a kick out of their forced presence, many students are physically present with their minds and interest hovering elsewhere.
Babitha Marina Justin, Assistant Professor
‘Only attendance won’t work if the student’s mind is not focused’
At the BA level, this is fine since they are undergraduates. But most importantly, we need to assess how we evaluate learning. Only attendance won’t work if the student’s mind is not focused on his or her studies. So we need attendance plus participation for overall learning. Some students have a higher percentage of attendance, while others don’t. Chances are, the ones with lesser attendance might academically do better than those with more attendance.
At the Delhi University, they have five levels for attendance. If one has the following percentage of attendance then for that he or she gets rewarded — for instance, students with 80 to 85 attendance, gets 5 marks extra, whereas, students get a -1 for 60 to 65 per cent attendance. However, I feel that as adults, they should be responsible enough to attend and focus as well.
Prof. Anita Ghai, Prof. of Psychology and Disability studies
‘These structures of the past have to go — education has to give way to learning’
It is my personal belief that the education system, as it exists, is completely broken. It disconnects us from our immediate community, from the facts of life, from learning life skills, and what is important for us as individuals and the community. What we require is unschooling and an experiential process of learning. Our universities are all examples of individuals, who are on campus just to get attendance, and they end up whiling time, and get up to all other activities except academic, research or learning. This is exactly what the institutions are meant to be utilised for. Politics in our democracy ought to be about citizen engagement in one’s communities, not about drama on campuses meant for serious learners. Attendance enforcement will achieve none of this. Breaking down this imprisoning system, with a deconstructed self-directed learning approach is the only remedy. These structures of the past have to go — education has to give way to learning.
Sandeep Anirudhan, sociologist
‘In a class, the teacher will only spoon-feed students’
It is a good way of making undergraduates attend their classes and become conscious of their academics. However, after attaining a graduate degree, when they have to do a lot of fieldwork and research work, sitting in a class doesn’t make sense. In a class, the teacher will only spoon-feed. On the contrary, students need to be innovative and think for themselves — out of the box. And that can be done only when they are out of the classroom not inside.
Students have questionnaires, interviews and so much mental work, especially for sociology students. You can’t sit in class and go ahead. Even an undergrad often bunks a class or two because they have fieldwork scheduled for some project. Postgrad students need only guidance they don’t need to be spoon-fed in classrooms. I do feel 75 per cent is harsh for them.
Nandini sardesai, sociolist and educationist