Attendance : Needed or Not ?

 With the recent surge in a change of attendance related policies in IITK, Vox Populi thought that it was an ideal time to initiate a discussion among the campus community about this topic. we interacted with some people from the faculty and student community, who had varying perspectives on this topic. Below is a summary of what people shared with us.

“The solution is to jack up the number of Fs” – Prof. Kaistha

Prof. Nitin Kaistha, Department of Chemical Engineering

Ideally, attendance should not be compulsory, but if there are less than 50% students in 90% classes then there is a problem. Someone needs to crack the whip.

Today you are a student and your job is to study and go to classes and if you don’t do that then you find excuses for not giving your 100%. But 40 times over 40 courses, it becomes a habit. You become a ‘makkaar’. Tomorrow you’ll do that at your job, then as a husband, a parent and so on

If students feel that they can pass the course by watching videos on the internet then we need not be a residential campus! We may very well shut it down! The whole idea is that the interaction between faculty and students will lead to learning skills that might not be possible otherwise. But without students in the class, how is that possible?

I am not saying biometric is the answer. I say the solution is to jack up the number of Fs, quenching the feeling that one would pass even without studying, hence students would pay more importance to academics. Otherwise, we are making a generation of shirkers!

 

“You want brains in the classroom, not just bodies” – Prof. Ishan Sharma

Prof. Ishan Sharma, Department of Mechanical Engineering

Attendance is important when you are schooling when you are dealing with people who are not adults. I think students should have the freedom to go to festivals, dictate their lives, but with full freedom comes full responsibility.

Making the things compulsorily can never be successful. What would one do by taking attendance? Give marks for it? Instead, I think it is better is to keep an absolute limit for scoring in an exam below which you fail. So if you are below 40% in a course, even if the average is 45%, you fail. I believe that just by coming to class, one can score 40% and it is my responsibility to make sure that the exams are such that 40% of the exams requires only attentiveness in class. This should be enough of a stick to guarantee attendance.

If you make attendance compulsory then people will find a way around it too, just like JEE. They will come to class and sleep, they will not pay attention and what is the point then? You want brains in a classroom, not just the bodies.

“A meager response from the students discourages the instructor” – Prof. Harbola

Prof. M.K. Harbola, Department of Physics

First of all, students come here as adults and I am not here to police them. You don’t police adults, they should take their own responsibility! It is not the responsibility of an individual instructor to develop work ethics. It is the students’ job to be disciplined. If they don’t have it, then they must develop it or suffer.

In case the faculty is not able to fulfill his job well, then students should talk to him, rather than bunk the lectures, which is the easiest way out. Here in IITK, if the students step forward five steps, the instructor shall definitely step ten, but the initiative has to be of the students. They spend a huge amount of time on Techkriti, Antaragni, Galaxy, etc but not even a tenth of that time is spent on academics.

If a teacher gives a lot of time to prepare for a lecture, a meager response not only discourages him but also decreases his incentive to work harder for the course. I have seen this happening in front of my own eyes in IITK! Attendance is something that lies in the hands of the instructor, not the students. But if I take it, it would be for some other purpose.

“The attendance issue is intertwined with many other things” – Vedant Goenka

Vedant Goenka, Chairperson, Students’ Senate

The notions of freedom and democracy are frequently associated to IITK. It’s what makes us different from our sister IITs. Attendance for lectures not being there is also part of IITK’s culture

So, if I am asked that whether an instructor’s incentive should depend upon the number of students attending classes, then I would say no, it should not. That being said, I also don’t mean that the instructor should feel motivated while taking a class of mere 5 students. But this is just one-half of the story, you need to consider the other half as well when changing a policy.

Our system is built for freedom, for students to go and experiment, to do what they like in the way they like and that is why excellent students came out from IITK. But when students don’t have this tool, the excellence may start going down. We should see that attendance is not just a stand alone issue, it is so inherent in our culture that it is entwined to many other things. Changing it, we’ll have to change a lot of things and I don’t think if people will be happy to live with them.

“I have seen students who don’t know the course number on the day of their midsems” – Ashutosh Ranka

Ashutosh Ranka, President, Students’ Gymkhana

Going by the culture that has been present in IITK, I don’t think attendance should be made compulsory. But if we go by the vision of the institute, then academics is central. It’s the reason we came here and if students are giving more importance to other activities, then the institute has the right to have compulsory attendance.

What I see today is that the incoming batches aren’t doing much. Their representation in campus activities is low and even academically, they are not doing well. Believe me, I have seen students who don’t know their course number on the day of their midsems. IITK in the past has seen students who did well academically, even after serious participation in extracurriculars. The system used to provide them with the flexibility to do so.

If the professor doesn’t teach well, students should go and raise their voices. They should complain to the DUGC, the SUGC, but that again needs participation. Everyone needs to understand that complaining from outside will not do anything. Hence I believe if they are not doing anything then at least they should attend the classes.

“The IITK of today is not the same as it was in it’s prime” – Shashank Bhandari

Shashank Bhandari

I believe we must have a moderate compulsory attendance policy (e.g. ~ 60-65%). The aim of the institute is to create leaders in science, technology, industry, business and more. To achieve that, we need to have an atmosphere where the students receive the necessary fundamental education to build foundations and have ample freedom to pursue independent innovation.

People say students are adults but think about it, the argument does not fly in various other “adult” or “professional” settings. (Imagine telling your boss you are an adult and hence can show up to work whenever you want to) Some might be acting as adults but that could be checked by policies like having a minimum necessary attendance till the mid-semesters which can be waived off on a good performance in the course for the next half of the semester.

Now coming to the point that IITK’s culture has been one of giving freedom and liberty to students, the answer is plain and simple. Culture changes.  IITK of now is not the same as it was in it’s prime and the only way we can reach those heights again is to participate and improve our academic system.

Written By Akhilesh Tayde, Anmol Chaman, Siddhartha Saxena