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The Work-Play Juggling That Leaves Students Struggling For ‘Attendance’: What’s The Fix?

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By Navneet Arora

We step into our college life with a certain expectation in mind. This is perhaps the first big choice we make in our lives of what course do we want to take up and we get to study the subjects of our choice. Additionally, the freedom that college brings gives us a space to explore various avenues beyond our classrooms that help us grow holistically. But gradually, we learn the rules of the land. By the end of the first semester when we are struggling to touch the required attendance mark. Life becomes monotonous because our schedule only involves going to college from home and back.

Image source: Tobias Leeger/Flickr
Image source: Tobias Leeger/Flickr

Can’t Ignore The Classes

Indeed college is not simply the KJo film that made us anticipate a red carpet welcome into a rosy view where we do everything else apart from attending classes. Contrary to this and for the sake of reality, it is indeed important to attend classes.

However, students working for the college and its extra-curricular societies find it difficult to create a balance between their academics and other interests. “I miss a lot of classes because of my society work and not able to understand a thing if and when I do get to attend a class. It is all out of context, and I feel totally alienated from the technical words being used in class and which topic is going on in which subject. Giving an exam becomes a Herculean task and it mostly becomes rote memorization at the last minute,” says a 2nd Year student.

Moreover, there are certain concepts and nitty-gritties that one can only understand when a teacher explains them in class, or when we are part of certain discussions that elicit various viewpoints on a particular topic. One can’t even recover these from other people’s notes later on. There is always an extra bit of learning in class which cannot be found after it is missed. Although a very high attendance requirement (which is 75% in some cases) puts a considerable restraint on the amount of time and energy that one could have devoted to various things otherwise.

The Constant Fear Of Low Attendance

At some point in time, every student in their college life has faced a dilemma of attending a class just for attendance, or doing something else which probably interests them more. The student finds himself/herself in a tight corner when their college is particularly strict about attendance.

There is a perpetual fear among students to achieve that 75% or 66% attendance mark. Rakshitha Arni, 3rd year student from Lady Shri Ram College for Women says, “The scenario is worse when one misses classes for important work within the college, like paying the fee. People performing for college societies do get ECA, but only a third of it is added to their final attendance. And the weightage of medical leave is worse.

After this, if you fail to meet the required attendance, then you will have to run around the entire college either for meeting the Principal or signing undertakings or bonds. You have a constant fear of not being allowed to sit for your semester exams or being detained. Life becomes stressful just to get those little extra percent added to your attendance.

Students taking admissions under sports quota also have to bear the brunt of strict attendance. Soumya Babbar, 2nd year student from Lady Shri Ram College for Women, and a national level basketball player says, “I am not able to attend classes because of tournaments and national camps and find it difficult to cope with the syllabus. I feel that the college should not make it difficult for people from Sports or ECA category in getting attendance because we are doing something apart from studies for the college itself. In such a scenario, one does not demand extra marks for attendance.

Similar to this, one is reminded of Unmukt Chand’s story in 2012, who brought us the Under-19 World Cup but was not allowed to sit for his exams because of short attendance.

Striking A Balance

The basic problem lies in the fact that we do not consider sports and co-curricular activities to be as important as academics. Many times, students who are not able to cope are sometimes brought to a position where they have to quit. Apart from lowering the attendance requirement for students from ECA, the colleges should help students working for the college so that they can cope with what they miss. Tutorial classes could be utilised for this purpose.

To help students in a way that they do not have to give up on their interests apart from academics, the colleges can make sure that time-tables have specific slots for ECA/Sports, which some colleges do. If and when students have to miss classes because of competitions or tournaments, it should be made easier for them to get their attendance in accordance with the classes they have missed.

In fact, they can also be given extra credit for being part of activities. In general, the attitude towards co-curriculars and sports needs to change, and one should learn to strike a balance with the academics.

The crux of the matter turns out to be that although a certain requirement for attendance needs to be specified, it should not be so high that it haunts the students. Due importance should be given to academics as well as co-curricular activities, and shouldn’t curtail our knack for exploring ourselves outside the boundaries of our classrooms.

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