Come November, it’s anxious times for parents and greedy times for a few colleges as everyone’s attention turns to attendance. Ever since 75% attendance was made mandatory to get a hall ticket, November is the month of drama in colleges.
Every year protests for attendance are reported across the city. Four years ago, a Principal was attacked and locked up in his chamber until he relented.
Rule 21 of the Karnataka Education Act 2006 makes 75% attendance mandatory to get a hall ticket. This rule applies to PUC, Under-Graduate and Post-Graduate courses. Supreme Court has also given a similar direction.
In Karnataka, this year alone 19,306 students did not have the minimum attendance to write their Secondary School Leaving Certificate (SSLC) examination! And in 2017 II PU exam 8,000 did not make the minimum attendance cut!
Now, this begs the question, is attendance so important? But an even more pertinent question the colleges and the government must ask is, why are students bunking classes? Are teachers not creative enough to keep their subject interesting?
While students are expected to be present, what about teachers’ abilities to hold their attention? In Mysuru, there are some Principals of colleges who don’t even have the required Ph.D from recognised Universities. Also, today most educationists are not themselves educated but run big educational institutions like a business bereft of any sense of service. How can such people provide an interesting and intellectual eco-system that entices students?
That is why today colleges are viewed both by the students and their parents as just a ‘necessary inconvenience’ to be paid for and tolerated in order to get that degree certificate or marks card.
Attending classes has many advantages from developing a sense of discipline to improved social skills. Also, interaction with peers in college tends to open up new career choices and future academic pursuits. But it all boils down to good teachers. Teachers are the ones who make students want to attend classes… but alas!
We are repeatedly told “Guru Devo Bhava” even when today many of the ‘Gurus’ do not know how to impart knowledge and have nothing ‘Devo’ about them. While in college I remember two friends of mine got full marks in their lab work, thanks to their meritorious ability to bribe — one gave the teacher a bottle of Peter Scot whiskey, the other, whose father owned a furniture shop, gave a cupboard!
Also now teachers don’t see the need to teach in class as they want the students to come for tuitions. Students who go for tuitions get good marks in their internal exam, which is graded by the same tuition teacher.
Now, some colleges have started a “teacher feedback” programme where students rate how good the teachers are. But this is open to all students. Now, how can a student who never comes to class give feedback on a teacher? Instead, only students who have more than 75% attendance must be allowed to give feedback.
Also this feedback programme has thrown up another problem — teachers trying to appease students to get a good feedback. They do this by being liberal with attendance, liberal with internal marks and finally producing a substandard-unemployable graduate.
Where is the parents’ responsibility in all this? Yesterday, a parent visited my office asking me to talk to the Principal of a college, who is a friend of mine, to give attendance to his son who had a shortage. I refused. But I later called my friend to find out about the attendance issue in city colleges. It was a revelation.
He said, it is unfortunate that even parents who have been told their child must have 75% attendance did not pay attention to the rule. This in spite of sending parents messages about their child’s absenteeism every 15 days. He said one parent told him that since they heard they can pay a fine and get attendance they didn’t bother! He also mentioned that he got call from politicians to increase students attendance so they can get hall tickets. It was a request for forgery.
Even more interesting is the fact that most colleges love it when they have a good number of students who have an attendance shortage! Why? Because some colleges charge a fine and give make-up attendance! And how much is the fine?
According to a source, some parents have paid up to Rs. 40,000 as fine. One college last year reportedly collected close to Rs. 10 lakh in fines alone! This is paid in cash because charging a fine for attendance shortage is illegal, in fact there is no provision for this in law. This means colleges are generating black money! So much for demonetisation.
In the grand scheme of things, lack of attendance is an indicator that there is a serious dearth of good teachers. On the other hand, if parents themselves don’t care about their child’s absenteeism, may be they should enrol them in a Distance Learning Programme in an Open University like Indira Gandhi National Open University (IGNOU), which is well-respected? Or just register your children with the PUC Board, send them to tuitions and they can write the board exam. Why undergo this embarrassment and anxiety every year?