Hindustan Times (Jalandhar)

Com­pul­sory at­ten­dance is coun­ter­pro­duc­tive

Stu­dents must be treated as adults ca­pa­ble of knowl­edge cre­ation and not as ci­phers

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One of the more fun­da­men­tal is­sues in the way higher ed­u­ca­tion in In­dia is reg­u­lated is the in­fan­til­i­sa­tion of adult stu­dents, and the mis­placed be­lief that the ad­min­is­tra­tion must ex­er­cise max­i­mum con­trol over stu­dents in or­der to cre­ate an ef­fec­tive learn­ing environmen­t. The is­sue of com­pul­sory at­ten­dance which has reared its head in Jawa­har­lal Nehru Univer­sity, is a symp­tom of this prob­lem. The be­lief be­hind mak­ing at­ten­dance com­pul­sory is that if stu­dents are forced to sit in the class­room, they will end up learn­ing from the teacher, no mat­ter how bor­ing, in­sipid, or unin­spir­ing a class may be.

The prob­lem with such think­ing is that it as­sumes that stu­dents – adults, with the right to vote and make their own de­ci­sions in life out­side of the col­lege environmen­t – are not re­spon­si­ble enough to make their own learn­ing choices. That they don’t, or worse won’t, at­tend lec­tures be­cause of some child­ish im­pulse to play tru­ant. This ap­proach to learn­ing as­sumes that the stu­dent is an empty re­cep­ta­cle in which the all-know­ing teacher may pour in knowl­edge; and their choice to not at­tend cer­tain lec­tures will de­prive them of this knowl­edge. This at­ti­tude re­moves the stu­dent from the process of knowl­edge cre­ation, ef­fec­tively as­sum­ing that the stu­dent can have noth­ing im­por­tant to con­trib­ute to the learn­ing process.

But in or­der to stim­u­late crit­i­cal think­ing and the abil­ity to ques­tion es­tab­lished rules, stu­dents must be in­cluded in the learn­ing process. If pro­fes­sors are un­able to hold the at­ten­tion of stu­dents, there is no point in forc­ing them to at­tend; be­cause as ev­ery­one who has ever been to a bor­ing lec­ture knows, sim­ply be­ing present does not mean any­thing. Learn­ing can only oc­cur when the stu­dent is en­gaged and is ready and will­ing to grap­ple with the prob­lems un­der con­sid­er­a­tion. A ro­bust ed­u­ca­tion sys­tem must in­clude stu­dents as part­ners in cur­ricu­lum de­sign; and not treat them as stor­age bins for in­for­ma­tion, in­stead of con­scious be­ings ca­pa­ble of knowl­edge cre­ation.

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