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Dear Professors, Here’s What Will Make Me Stay In Class, And Not Just For The Attendance

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By Veda Nadendla:

After spending three years completing a bachelor’s degree and a year and a half trying to complete a master’s degree, I realized that frustration has become a second nature to me, and fight or flight, the story of my life. I thought I’ve been PMSing for four years straight, but now I know why. The very attrition and absenteeism that I am studying to curb, is what I indulge in on a very regular basis, because I just cannot seem to stand being in college. I walked into college with the hope of great learning, and learning it was, to expect nothing more than average.

college edu

Are you reading this and feeling that this is the story of your life? Do you also dislike going to college with the very same fervour as I do? I feel you my friend. I write to talk about what needs to change in Indian colleges, and fast. Before brain drain becomes a national threat, it’s time that faculty and management paid attention to student feedback and ramped up the grievance redressal system. We are done being the collateral damage of an uptight and antique education system, unwilling to repaint its structures, let alone rebuild.

If only the following four things get implemented, I will become much more than a guest appearance at college.

1. Abolish Compulsory Attendance
This is just a way of keeping students in class. It’s almost a reaffirmation of the fact that if this rule was not in place, hardly anyone would be in class. No comparisons to how universities around the world function, but the 90, 85 and 75 per cent compulsion to be in class is redundant. This is because many times, even though we are sitting in there, we are hardly interested. ‘The attendance rule’ has also become a way of threatening students and tossing superiority by saying that if you come to class five minutes late, your attendance won’t be marked. So does that mean I can walk out?

Colleges should have an attendance bar of 45% and instead of threatening us, they need to consciously work on a way of making class a more interesting place to be in and lectures, a memorable experience. Nothing can stop me from attending a lecture that compels me to think; give your students the gift of curiosity and intellect, not the grind of mediocrity.

2. Stricter Criterion for Professor Recruitment
No disrespect to the people we so ardently call Ma’am/ Sir, but I believe that Universities around the country need to have stricter criteria for Professorship and a more testing recruitment process. I would much love that the people bestowing knowledge upon me at least spoke to me in English instead of making fun of me for not knowing the state language. It seems that our system is willing to settle for mediocrity. It doesn’t matter who is teaching, as long as the material is covered, right? And this usually happens in the form of photo copies and notes dictation that amounts to mugging up and vomiting on the answer sheet.

Professor recruitment needs to be taken up with some strict criterion; for instance- English communicative knowledge, minimum two years of experience in the field, ability to hold attention, presentation skills, holistic subject knowledge, a dynamic teaching plan and interpersonal skills. This is the person who judges my answer sheets and assignments, who gives me scores that dictate my future, who is supposed to set a standard for me; should my professor not be thoroughly tested for his/her holistic competence too? When students are handpicked through aptitude tests and in-depth multi-panel interviews for admission, it is only fair that their faculty members are the cream of the lot too.

3. Paper and Pocket Friendly Education
Not only are we paying a hefty sum as college fees, we are also spending on numerous handwritten assignments taken up as a way to avoid plagiarism. Then there is a multitude of photo-copies and project review copies that we spend on, not to mention the copious amounts of notes we take. One five subject notebook every semester and nearly 1 kg of paper printed for trash. Figuratively speaking, 1 kg per student, 150 students per department, 8 departments in the college and a total of 1200 kgs of paper; where is all this paper going?

Then there are all those answer booklets. Imagine if we could choose to type end semester papers instead of writing them. Laptops would be an investment, alright, but not only would you be standardizing the examination process and increasing our chances of getting better scores, but also preventing the waste of unbelievable amounts of paper.

Allow us to use our cell phones, tablets and laptops to take notes in class; encourage the exchange of information online instead of taking print outs; allow us to submit assignments through email. That way, the pocket money gets saved and the use of paper gets limited; plus, we can stop being judged on our handwriting and start being marked for the quality of our work instead.

4. Challenging Classrooms not Lives
Many times, being a student is a berating experience, because some of your professors are constantly judging and reprimanding you for being late, for not paying attention, for your handwriting, for the way you dress or even the way you speak. Setting standards is good, but every student is different and as our guides, professors need to respect that. Similarly, respect is earned, not force fed through rules and punishments. Do not set out seeking perfection, set out for growth. Make every class worth talking about even after it’s done, discuss the world with us, ask us about our experiences, involve us in debates about what is right and what is wrong, engage our minds and feed us with a spark for creativity. Encourage us for extempore and discussions, performance based learning and role-play activities; make the classroom a place where we feel like expressing ourselves.

Dear Professors, fortunately for you, this is not just another job. Being a teacher is a paramount responsibility, a responsibility of the future. I am one of those futures, and I refuse to buckle under the pressure to conform; instead I choose to inform you that I want more. Not because I am paying for it, but because I choose to learn and be challenged. It doesn’t even have to be the system, you can change our experience, and just one teacher is all it takes to set the ball rolling. Enter our world and teach us the way we want to learn. We challenge you to challenge us.

You must be to comment.
  1. Aravind Get

    Who is professor in most of the college ?
    An unemployed M.E graduate.

  2. Shekhar Jain

    You know a lot about teaching? Will you be a teacher in near future ?
    (the question is really important but I feel there will not be any followup to the article)

    PS I am teacher and the best teachers I have met were not too good in English and to be really frank, being a teacher, a teacher doesn’t require what all you have wrote.

    first basic thing required is acceptance and to give students a realization that s/he is no different from them.

    Sad, you didn’t do proper research. Compulsory attendance is decided by university not by Proff. So this must eliminated from the scope of this article as per the title.

    Paper friendly ? ? ? To take exams digitally is again a university decision and taking assignment is proff. In my case my student themselves don’t want to submit assignment digitally.

    I know HR executives and fundraisers very well know how to hit hard on the node and that reflects in this article well. But being a thinker and a thinking brain please realize a fact that there will be too many who will be misguided.

    1. My 2 B

      Learn some grammar. Your students must take forever just trying to understand what you meant.

  3. Vishal

    First, I agree with the problems you have outlined. But your solutions are way too generalistic and, to an extent, impractical, given your biases against the education system in India. I agree with your suggestion of using laptops in classrooms, but given the reservation system here, how many can afford laptops? Should colleges provide loans for these laptops? Should all rooms be computerised? What would the electricity costs be? By how much would student fees increase then? Would the admissions be inclusive then? How much lopsided would the fee structure be then? Loads of practical questions to be answered before taking into account your suggestions.

    Again, you suggest that compulsory attendance be revoked? So that no one bothers attending classes? Even if the class is interesting, there will always be a % who wouldn’t want to come because they just wouldn’t feel like! What’s the solution? You want the professors to hold tests everyday? Attend and take, or miss and fail? Interesting lectures do not run the surety of being fully occupied na. Besides, colleges might do their costings on a per student basis to decide how much to make per student or something internal to the management which we do not know of. There is always an ulterior explanation to stuff such as this.

    Now, you want that professors should be rigorously interviewed etc. Of course they should be! It is a profession after all and deserves equal levels of competition too. Even we have endured some great minds in the field but terrible speakers and terrible classroom managers. Students whose motivations soared before class, were found snoring halfway through. Of course, u need a classroom manager more than just an expert. And if colleges emphasise so much on English communications, then it should uphold that value by hiring teachers who can communicate at least in decent English! What values does the college follow then?

    I have loads of stuff to talk to you about this article. But this comment will turn into a fucking novel, lol. Do ping me if you want to discuss it with me.


  4. Aishwarya

    I am also a visiting professor of law as well as I also teach various groups. I agree with the author, that the style of teaching needs to be changed.

    I personally allow students to use the net while in lectures only subject to they give me information on the subject being discussed. I would also like to mention here that in the semester of 6 months it takes me half the semester to make students comfortable with the idea of group discussion. Secondly even our examination system should change as the first question that students ask me even at a professional level is that “Maam pls tell us only that will come in exams”.

    The attitude change of the students and society is also important here. Please stop judging on the basis of marks and encourage talent. Whatever the author has said here is just a small beginning and we all need to contribute.

  5. Tushar Arora

    I think the point regarding taking examinations digitally is not practically possible in our country given the poor infrastructure. I spent last 3.5 years waiting for the class to be interactive, to be something different. I think somewhere down the line it is problem of the students too. 60% students in my class didn’t want to take engineering as an undergraduate course. 30% have no interest in computer science. They are just studying engineering to get a 3 l.p.a. job in “GROWING” Indian IT industry. The last 10% are interested in core computer science. But when they go to the classroom, then they see that mournful face of the prof as if he is being paid to enjoy some time in computer science department.

    I strongly believe that it is the problem faced by both, a prof and a student. If an engineering student takes interest in core subjects (without only thinking about an IT job) then they will be able to interact more with profs. If professors start teaching in a meaningful way like interactive presentation sessions, QA sessions, discussing about latest technologies, talking about business leaders and scientists, creating an environment of learning, encouraging the one sitting at the corner not to study but to learn something new, implement it, create something with it. That is what a student want and that is what I want. Profs should understand that only being strict to everything is not a solution. Sometimes they should smart methods to engage students, make them think on their own. It is not at all important to finish the coursework. It is not at all important to tell this question will be of 4 marks and that will be of 8. That we can do on our own. Profs should discourage muggers and ask them to learn and not to vomit everything in examinations. By the efforts of both of them it’ll get better.

  6. Elmo

    Buddy… i know exactly how you feel. I’m in my final year at college now & to top it of I’m studying EEE. Every day is a battle, to go to college or not. You learn nothing by attending college lectures…i get it but I learnt a couple of things after discussing this with a professor at my college.

    Compulsory attendance: this is implemented so that you can’t be at two places at the same time… if you don’t attend 75% of your classes (say) could walk out with 2 degrees at the end of 4 years..maybe in journalism (by 3) & engineering (by 4)…well maybe you’re intelligent enough to answer all uni papers without attending a single class but then why do you want want a degree anyways then?

    Professor recruitment: no offence to teachers here, but I feel all the good ones( who have passion for their field and actually understand it) have reached somewhere in life or are teaching in a very good college where students learn something at the end of the day. If you don’t like attending college, the faculty there probably feel the same.

    3. You want to type end sem papers? I’d like to see you try drawing circuit diagrams from my power electronics textbook using MS Paint in 3 hours. Or maybe a diagram to explain how an IC engines works? There’s a lot of thought put into these rules man. Also! Emailing assignments? They do that in some colleges, at least where those good teachers ended up In 😛

    But yes I’m on the same boat as you… i totally understand what you’re feeling. But take it this way… you went through it all, and made it! Aim high and make sure you never have to deal with the kind of people you did in college. Cheers.

  7. Meet

    All you said was true… Except the point that we want faculties with experience… Coz every1 has a first try… Also that shouldn’t excuse them for teaching us in a wrong manner

  8. Anitha Choudhary

    All the points brought up in the article are perfectly true and happening… but we are just looking at only side of the picture…
    As an engineering pass out, I can completely relate with all the problems mentioned but somewhere down the lane, the mind set of the students to today has also been spoiled to such an extent that it requires an equal amount of cleaning to be done. I had some exceptional professors in my college to could hold your attention till the last minute of the session but even their classes used to half empty. Even I am completely against the attendance system but considering the way students are moulded right from the school, I am not sure if lifting the veil from the attendance rules will help in anyway… I think we would only end up having empty classes and even the really good prof would go unnoticed…
    It will be great if the rote writing work of records, projects, reviews is all eliminated and instead that time can utilised to gain some practical experience and engage in brain storming discussions and debates that would open up the students to the real world problems…
    The whole system of students, proff and the school management and administration need a complete renewation and that too from an early stage to bring back the holistic education for which India was known once upon a time…

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