by Aditya Garg
If my first year at this University has taught me anything it would definitely be that we people here are superior to the people who go to Delhi University, or so we all openly proclaim. But, what I sense is that this need for superiority stems from some deep-rooted jealousy within us in light of the amount of freedom available to the DU people. Our attendance system, whereby marks are awarded for the percentage of classes attended, is a known cause of misery for many. The only way people get through is by sleeping through most of the lectures.
However, a really interesting situation has now come up in the first year classroom, where more than one Professor has stated that our mere presence shall not be enough for the attendance we seek. The attendance of every individual is directly contingent upon their ‘participation’ in class, and their ability to engage with the teacher.
But, all Professors have not adopted this method in the same way. Whereas one Professor has been arbitrary enough to apply this method to some Lectures and not apply it to others, another has gone out to select only a few students out of the class (for reasons best known to her) and made their attendance contingent upon them being able to sum up, in the last 5 minutes of the Lecture, what the Professor had taught. Another Professor has adopted a method of assigning a reading and then asking questions based on it to everyone and giving/not giving them attendance on the basis of their answers.
The usefulness and need of having marks for attendance is another debate in itself and I shall not go into it here. But, since we live in a University where we are allotted marks and where every mark counts (ask the 35 people who failed HLCD from our batch, some by a mark or two), it really becomes an issue when students are now expected to qualify certain criteria set by their Professor in addition to attending the class.
The problem with setting such criteria is that they are completely arbitrary and solely dependent upon the mood of the teacher. Where on a day where the class is unresponsive they may choose to adopt this and on other days not adopt this. There are 3 classes in a particular Course for which we have no idea on how the attendance was marked, since it wasn’t taken in the class.
Besides this, there is a larger debate on whether the ability of the student to answer a question or engage with a teacher in class is actually a proper judge of the amount of knowledge a student has or the amount of attention they were paying in class. About how there are students who may have a genuine problem in speaking out in front of others, and who are at an immediate set-back in comparison to their peers who have an innate ability to faff their way out of such situations (I’d know best).
What is also pertinent is a certain fallacy in the working of the method adopted in itself, where it is almost impossible for 80 students to speak out their opinions in a class spanning 45 minutes, as our batch saw in a lecture held last week where a certain amount of students did not get a chance to speak even though they wanted to.
This leaves us thinking about how much of autonomy does the teacher have in regards to their Course (one Professors has told us this criteria of attendance may not reflect in our “actual attendance marked” but will instead affect our Project scores), about how students are left in a certain state of doubt by the Professors where they refuse to clarify as to why was the system put in place, and how will it go forward. What needs to be seen is for how long this method can be allowed to go forward without any substantial protest against it.