IITK is among the few institutes of higher education where there is no mandatory attendance policy enforced in all courses. Lately, the practice of taking biometric attendance in certain courses has been a source of alarm and has led to various discussions in the student community. For a clearer insight, Vox had a discussion with the Dean of Academic Affairs (DoAA), Prof. Neeraj Misra.
Biometric attendance was started in the second semester of the 2015 – 2016 session, based on feedback from both students and faculty for 2 – 3 courses. It was implemented for a few courses in the Summer Term last year, in the 2016-17 (I) semester and in 4 – 5 courses in 2016-17 (II)
The objective behind taking biometric attendance is to make sure attendance takes place efficiently and with the least disturbance possible. To quote the DoAA, “Many faculty members want to give some weightage to attendance. Now it is not possible to take attendance manually for large classes of over 400 students. This shall facilitate the same. Also, IITK is a residential campus and biometric attendance would allow the campus authorities to be aware if the students were in the campus, as after all, they are the custodians of the students and are answerable to their parents.”
The DoAA reassured us that there is no proposal for an institutional policy requiring compulsory attendance. He said, “Whether the attendance is compulsory or given weightage in grading is dependent on the instructor. I personally believe attendance ensures that the learning process and academic environment is preserved. Some students may be capable of achieving good grades without regular attendance, but IITK is not a factory to provide grades. Here we inculcate an academic environment, and every student has certain responsibilities.”
Biometric attendance is definitely a good implementation of existing technology to increase efficiency of procedural matters and promote ethical behaviour in campus. According to our DoAA, there have been no major implementation problems and hopefully, as soon as more equipment is acquired, biometric attendance will be used in more courses.