Compulsory attendance in Colleges is a violation of a student’s human & constitutional rights

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Almost all Indian colleges & universities now require a minimum of 75% attendance from the students to allow them to appear for exams. Else the students, irrespective of how bright or how needy they are simply not allowed to even fill up their exam forms.

Students and parents find this rule draconian because it puts the students at the mercy of colleges. Most colleges and universities do not have any foolproof and/or fail safe mechanism for recording student’s attendance. Some that do have don’t make it transparent. Why is this important?

It is important because the 75% attendance rule is used to terrorise the students into meekly submitting to and bearing with all the whims & fancies of not only the college managements but also teachers and non-teaching staff including (you will be surprised) even the peons. If any student protests to anything or does not dance to the tunes of the college authorities/teachers, he or she is threatened with entire attendance of varying periods in the past being marked absent. For ex. If a teacher or a cashier or a lab attendant does not like something that a student is doing or not doing, they will be threatened that if he/she does not comply, his/her entire attendance for a particular period in the past or future might be marked absent.

Now please pay attention here – A student can be marked absent for a whole previous month even though he was present for the whole month and his attendance has been recorded as present! Just because he/she refuses to be a meek slave to a teacher or clerk or someone else! Should this be the norm? Off course NO, you would say, but the reality is a BIG YES. Further, neither the student nor the parents have any remedy against this. Either they fall in line or they risk falling out. Fall out no one can, so falling in line with a dictatorial management is the only option.

All this would have been OK had the teaching been good. Mandatory attendance is overall better for society. It raises the bar of general education and protects children from being diverted to early labour or casual wanderings and left ignorant of their capability. It makes the society more equal and more competitive in the world. Sounds Right?

Yes. But what do they do in a class where teachers are not competent to teach, colleges don’t have the infrastructure to educate, universities have no norms for educational standards & the governments lack the will to enforce whatever little regulations they have?

Not much can the students do except rot in this hell of an educational system, waste their time, sap their energies and destroy the most creative phase of their life just to fill the pockets of some illiterate (most probably) or greedy (certainly) politicians or business barons!

What would have been the purpose of formulating a 75% attendance policy in colleges & universities? Ensure learning they would say.  But how can one learn when there is no teaching, or not proper teaching? No infrastructure, or if it exists, students are not allowed to use it, no norms, or if they do exist, they are not followed? Don’t even talk about maintaining teaching standards!

For anyone in tune with the vagaries of the contemporary education polity (Yes, I call it ‘polity’ with a purpose) the answer to above is plain & simple. The purpose of the 75% attendance rule is to protect the business interests of the colleges – the education mafia if I may aggressively call it so. Had there been no rule as such, not only classes but whole colleges would have been abandoned, destroying the carefully built façade of these so called ‘centers of learning’ & exposing the rot and the deep ugly underbelly therein. Exposing this decay in the education system is not what the powers be want, for it goes against their pecuniary interests.

Let’s face the facts. Students do not wish to attend most of the classes. Students do not wish to attend most of the classes because most of teachers do not know teaching and are not worth sitting for & listening to. Students do not wish to attend all classes because they feel it wastes their time. Not feel, they know, damn it. Students know that their time would be better utilized elsewhere, using other means to study. In the absence of worthwhile teaching in colleges, students have developed their ecosystems of enabling learning through alternate means. Those alternatives are much better, more efficient, more productive & surprisingly cheaper.

BUT, they are forced to attend classes against their wishes. They know their requirements & also know how to get them. They & their parents can decide & make good decisions BUT, do they have the freedom of expression to express their choice? NO. Freedom of expression, freedom of choice, freedom to decide, and ability to decide…don’t the words ring many bells? Had the issue been anything else – a linguistic/religious war, the question to choose eating habits, there would have been a big hue and cry. Hell, even crackers in Diwali & water in Holi are able to generate much more cacophony but nobody cares about this most urgent, emergent, necessary requirement of the student community. Good education or the freedom to choose good education must be guaranteed to every student.

Why doesn’t the government give them this right? It sure does give them the right to vote and aggressively woos them for their votes? Governments have in the past given them free laptops, free tablets, free books, free hostels, free Fees but why never a free will? If you can trust an 18 year old student to have the ability to select you, all the governments then why the hell you can’t you trust him/her with the ability to choose which lecture/class is worth attending or not? You can make him participate in deciding the country’s future by voting but you don’t allow him to decide his own present & future by studying properly. Why? Half of Indian population can decide about the right life partner at 18, but are not thought fit to be able to decide the right teacher for a 5 page lesson or a 10 point topic?

Governments are known for making a fallacy of facts & then fail in establishing both. That’s the tragedy of this rule. Our constitution gives us the Right to education. Education is not just ‘getting admitted’. It also involves learning. Admission can be given, but learning has to be taken. Attendance can be forced but you can’t force learning till you enforce good teaching. Till the government doesn’t do this attendance will remain a fact but education will be a fallacy.

What, then is the way out? Plain & simple. Let the college students decide which lectures they wish to attend and which not. Good teachers will always have their classes full. Bad ones will be pointed out, exposed. Students and their parents are aware and awakened; they know how to study, what to study, where to study. If they have some doubts, they will get back to you. If you have the wherewithal and the will, help them or carry on with your indulgence. They will figure a way out. They will do well with your help, but better without you(rdictatorship).

And don’t say the education standards will fall. They can’t be worse than what they are. You have exams to control your standards. Do that. Hold good exams, on time, check papers well, be strict if you wish so, declare results in time, and ensure admission process is fair. That’s way you can control everything you want and still be respected.  Exams will take care of student standards. Let students take care of how to pass your exams. Realise that you are in this business to make money for yourself, not for your teachers. You will continue to make money by taking admission and exam fee. Don’t try to fund the incompetence & lethargy of your teachers & your own in the guise of enforcing attendance rules.

Our constitution also gives us the right to liberty. Article 21 gives that to every citizen. All students are full & honourable citizens of India protected by the constitution. Forcing attendance without providing quality teaching is violation of their basic constitutional rights as also against all human right principles.

And before you start pointing out exceptions, let me do that or you. Article 21 (and a citizen’s life and liberty) can be exempted only for relevant laws. Enforced Attendance is a rule; rules are not laws so there you go. Fall flat.

Any which way you look at it, the 75% attendance rule is draconian, arbitrary, unjust, inhuman, crazy & idiotic. It must go. Students must have the choice to reject a bad teacher. If you can fail a bad student for bas performance as perceived by you, so also the student must have the right to fail the teacher for bad performance, at least insofar as he/she himself/herself is concerned. Don’t worry about income dwindling. A phoenix will rise from the ashes once the bad apples rot away. Better for you to manage a few good teachers than a horde of bad ones. Students will manage themselves. Don’t even attempt. They have their parents and guardians to take ‘genuine’ care of them. Your lip service is to blunt to hide. Either improve your teaching, standardise it, measure it, rate it and run all classes full or throw away the 75% façade.

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